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What is Leadership? (Frohman Day 1)

From: Dov Frohman To: Shmuel Rosner Re: Leadership Dear Shmuel, Thanks for your message and interesting perspective about my book. It's fascinating to see what readers make of what I was trying to say. The writer of this book naturally … Read More

By / March 6, 2008

From: Dov Frohman To: Shmuel Rosner Re: Leadership

Dear Shmuel,

Thanks for your message and interesting perspective about my book. It's fascinating to see what readers make of what I was trying to say.

The writer of this book naturally exposes himself enthusiastically to the readers’ interpretation. In a way tolerating with a smile the different interpretations provides both an opportunity to expand on the book’s messages and a humbling experience in dealing with critical interpretations and proposals for restatement of the essence of the book.

I believe that with a little bit of luck I will survive your critical insights…

That said, I have to disagree with your conclusion that my message about leadership is, in effect, 'paranoia plus luck.' I think it is too simplistic. Let me try to explain why.

On survival: I don't think insisting on survival can be reduced to mere paranoia. It's not necessarily paranoid to not take survival for granted or even to always be anticipating the worst in a situation. It's simply part of the responsibility of being a leader. I'm very skeptical about so-called leaders who have such a grandiose view of their own talents that they never imagine something going wrong; examples abound both in Israel and the US.

My childhood experience taught me that people with strong values who are willing to take risks can make a decisive difference in a survival situation. The same goes with what we did at Intel Israel during the First Gulf War. If the organization had just been "paranoid," we would never have been able to do what we did. In both cases there was a real life threatening danger which obviated the need for paranoia.

So stressing survival may be ‘against the current’ but it does not equate with paranoia.

On risk-taking: I believe that good leaders 'make their own luck’. Or as Seneca the Roman philosopher put it more succinctly “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

A leader has to take calculated risks, if it works it is a success and if it does not it is a failure. In my mind there are no quasi successes or quasi failures; this is part of the essence of leadership the hard way. A success can always be interpreted by observers as luck and failure as circumstantial but leaders should be accountable for their failures. During the First Gulf War, I understood full well that there was some possibility that one of our sites would be hit by a Scud. But I judged that risk worth taking and made it clear to my people that I would take responsibility for that decision whatever happens.

On the future success of Israeli high tech: Admitting that the success and future of Hi Tech in Israel is not necessarily based on heroics and the Jewish genius but rather on a survival instinct that drives creativity and teamwork is not sad. It is rather an against the current observation that is important for long term success. While in many respects the 'turbulence' of the Israeli/Middle East environment has been enabling for our high-tech industry and helped make it successful globally, it is also possible to have too much turbulence and too much instability. It should lead to a sobering conclusion that Israeli Hi-tech is vulnerable.

I do believe that Israeli Hi-tech can survive in chaos and turbulence based on our competitive record, but in order to survive through success and flourish in the future it is strongly dependent on a stable political and economic environment.

In summary, a survival thrust should not be confused with paranoia. In this age of pervasive communication, networking and instant gratification the young generation tends to take survival for granted and ignore the turbulence, not only in Israel but worldwide. A wake up call may be in order.

Taking advantage of random opportunities does not equate to luck. The launching of Intel Israel was based on a vision, and not on either luck or paranoia. In fact not only the EPROM invention but most major inventions have a strong accidental element in them! Admitting that the invention was nearly accidental is ‘against the current’ and may offend some inventors but it was not based on luck.

This book in my mind is about learning and bootstrapping leadership the hard way through life experience and invisible mentorship; paranoia and luck are only observed side effects.

I am thoroughly enjoying this exchange, I hope you do too!

Have fun!

Dov

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