S+B: What else do business leaders need to understand about the increasingly mobile-driven global economy?
SCHROEDER: Ben Horowitz, who was the cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, a great venture capital firm, often talks about courage, and he doesn’t just mean bravery. He means an assuredness—not an arrogance, but an assuredness; being willing to walk through walls to make an idea happen. You can usually tell whether an entrepreneur has it within 15 minutes of meeting them.
That’s important because most “overnight” successes don’t happen overnight. They might take eight years. As I once heard the great entrepreneur David Bradley say: Life isn’t an arrow; it’s a sine wave. So what really matters for most of us, as human beings and as businesspeople, is, what are you like in the low end of a sine?
Everyone loves you when you’re at the top. You’re a hero, you’re smarter than everybody else, and people talk about you in powerful ways. When you’re down in the low end, everyone thinks you’re an idiot, and your employees may be questioning your leadership.
But you learn a lot about yourself and other people when you’re in the low end. If you know it won’t be forever, if you know you’ll get to your goal eventually, and here’s how you’ll figure it out, that’s fantastic. Successful people don’t doubt that they have the ability to change the world. But they should remember that the journey’s going to be an incredibly, shockingly bumpy one.
So, really, success, and leadership more broadly, is about having the kind of courage that comes from a raw desire to make something happen that was not there before—and wanting it in your teeth. If you have that, the rest tends to take care of itself. This is true around the globe.
- Jen Swetzoff is deputy managing editor of strategy+business.