Chris Hirst: The ultimate role of the leader is to get stuff done

Leaders should prioritise action above all else, argues the author of ‘No Bullsh*t Leadership’ and the global CEO of Havas Creative, in his second column for MT.

by Chris Hirst

No.2 The Leadership Equation

When Lou Gerstner took the helm of IBM in the depths of its despair in 1993 he was widely lambasted by the business press for saying the last thing the company needed right then was a strategy. On closer inspection, what he actually said was the company’s problem lay not in the quality of their strategies, but in their willingness to choose one and implement it. In other words, they needed to do less talking about it and more getting on with it. 

Gerstner stopped talking, started doing and famously reinvented Big Blue. And in his actions, rather than his words, lies a moral for us all. Strategy is nothing without the courage and ability to implement it. As Peter Drucker, the father of business strategy, famously said, ‘Ultimately all strategy devolves into work.’ In other words, the ultimate role of the leader is to get stuff done. 

Ideas, I believe are easy - ten-a-penny. What is really, really difficult is the selection of the right idea and the turning of that idea into a concrete reality. Ideas can only really be considered great once they have been executed. And executed excellently.

I once worked with a very talented creative director. For one particular assignment he became obsessed with the idea that the solution was to project an advert onto the moon. Would this have been a fabulously effective solution for this brand? I can confidently say, yes, it would have been. But the rather inconvenient fact that there was absolutely no way we could do it, was a detail it took him many months to reluctantly concede. It therefore wasn’t a great idea, it was a useless idea, and indeed simply got in the way of finding a great idea.

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