For the better part of the last decade I had focused my career on driving innovation for Best Buy, a Fortune 100 retailer, and the undeniable king in the consumer electronics category. When I joined the company I was focused on identifying innovative products and services that were specifically tailored for the needs of their newly identified customer segments. I then joined a team where we focused on creating new concept and prototype stores and lead the team responsible for the Escape concept store in Chicago. Eventually we shut down our two concept stores and I worked to reshape the team into an internal capability that could deliver new prototype stores (i.e. Best Buy Mobile), new retail models (i.e. Best Buy Express), and identify new growth product and service categories (i.e. Personal Transportation, Home Energy Management, and Health & Fitness).
Mentors aren’t supposed to be Sherpas carrying your heavy pack for you up the mountain but they are meant to help guide you, provide context, and offer their advice. Too often I see organizations trying to shirk their responsibility in developing future leaders by suggesting that personal development is the responsibility of the employees. Certainly the employee is responsible for taking “ownership” of their own development but that is a far cry from organizations not having any responsibility. When this gap exists it will be at the organizations own peril – they will struggle to replace departing leaders with qualified candidates and eventually they will battle with the Peter Principle.
Everyone credits Steve Jobs for the success of Apple but where would Apple be without their “failed” former CEO John Sculley who had to oust Steve Jobs from the company he founded? Not to say that their contributions were both equal but they were both instrumental in shaping Apple for its incredible success. It is well understood that organizations need different types of leaders at different times. Sometimes organizations need a good failure to create the drive that will propel them toward success. And sometimes leaders find their passion within the boiling animosity of working relationships. All of these situations were found with the Steve Jobs vs. John Sculley saga at Apple. So how can we learn from them?
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