Leader’s Manual
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Leader’s Manual

Leadership Starts with Taking Responsibility

Why are Vision and Passion not Enough to Lead?

Phil Knight from Nike has built the company from scratch. He was negotiating like crazy with a big Japanese shoe producer Onitsuka at age of 24. In fact, he hadn’t even one employee when he convinced the producer to allow him to sell the shoes in the US.

You could say that he started with nothing. But is it really true?

Vision is not enough to lead

Yes, you can say that he had something at the beginning — a vision. An idea that was shared with his colleagues at the university. An idea, that selling the best Janapese sports shoes at the US market is a great business opportunity. Knight was working on each detail of this vision, studying it in the university library for many weeks.

It was a good idea, because there was a growing shoe market in the US, while there were high-quality, low-cost shoes produced in Japan. For sure it helped Knight in his negotiations, But was a good vision really enough?

Passion is not enough to lead

Knight believed in his idea. In fact, he believed in it so strongly that he could convince Mr. Onitsuka from Onitsuka Co. — then a producer of Tiger shoes. In the end, Onitsuka himself guaranteed Knight rights for distribution of Tigers to the Western US states.

Knight was in love not only with his vision but with running as well. Even if he was not the fastest runner, he did it both to compete and to relax, almost daily. His first flat was full of shoes — from the floor to the ceiling. Even at the weekend when he proposed to his wife, they were away to watch an athletics competition. So yes — he loved it.

But again — was Knight’s passion, together with a vision, enough to lead to building the company? For me, the answer is: no.

This one thing is necessary to lead

Building a company requires leadership. What’s more — it requires effective leadership.

So what makes a man become an effective leader if it’s not only vision and passion?

My answer doesn’t come only from studying the life of Phil Knight. It comes from my studying many leaders, from Abraham Lincoln to Elon Musk. But first of all, it comes from watching how is business working on a daily basis, and who becomes a leader in daily situations.

I strongly believe that this one thing that is crucial for a man to become a leader is to take responsibility.

Vision is just an idea. It can be great in detail, but if you will not take the responsibility to realize it — it will stay only in your mind.

Passion is just a feeling. It can be very exciting and may give you a lot of fun but if it’s not focused on some actions and on achieving specific goals — it’ll be just a passion.

Yes, to lead you need to be passionate about your vision. But to start the leadership journey, you need to say to yourself: I take responsibility for making this vision a reality.

For Knight to build a great shoe company, in one moment he needed to decide: this is my task, I’m responsible for making it happen.

The same is with any vision — both personal and business-related. No matter if you want to build a startup, make your city (or country) great again or change the entire education system — at first you need to take responsibility.

Responsibility is making you active

This one thing, the decision to take responsibility, is changing you. It transfers you from being a dreamer to being a leader. From this decision, you start working on realizing a vision, while not only thinking about it.

And just to be sure — taking responsibility makes your life harder. A lot. Because when you’ll take the responsibility for something, you’ll feel the pressure you’ve added on your shoulders. It’s a pressure of your goals that you’ve promised to achieve, problems you’ve promised to solve, or needs you’ve promised to satisfy.

Probably more people were thinking about the same business idea at the same time, as Phil Knight. So he had to have something more than a vision of selling Japanese shoes and a passion for running.

What differentiated Phil Knight from others was that he has made a decision that made his life harder and more demanding. A decision to take responsibility.

Taking responsibility is not enough to succeed, but it is necessary to begin. And to not give up, when being a leader.

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