Letter From the Editor: The Myth of the Big Shot
BY John Koten
Leadership isn't just about charisma.
Letter From the Editor
Inc., at its very core, is a magazine written for and about leaders. Leadership is not only a role thrust upon the owners and top managers of growing businesses, but also is arguably the most crucial determinant of their success. So why would Inc. run a major feature this month entitled " Why Leadership Is the Most Dangerous Idea in American Business"? The answer, as editor-at-large Michael S. Hopkins explains in a thought-provoking and well-argued essay that begins on page 86, is that there's an important case to be made that the whole concept of leadership has become distorted in a modern world that often values style over substance. Leaders don't actually have to be larger-than-life figures to do their jobs well. They don't have to have insatiable appetites, bold visions, and egos as big as all outdoors. Yet that's how they are typically portrayed these days -- in part because those ingredients make for a more dramatic story. But it is a misleading story with a misleading message. And, as Hopkins demonstrates, it can cause serious problems for entrepreneurs who take it to heart. Rather than live up to a glorified image, business owners are better off when they remain focused on the reason they started their companies in the first place: to build a better life for themselves and their families. Our cover story this month couldn't serve as a better example of this alternative approach to guiding a business. In " The Heart of a Company," senior editor Leigh Buchanan recounts the moving story of entrepreneur Kenny Kramm, whose Inc. 500 company grew out of a personal quest to help his seriously ill daughter. Before founding FlavorX, Kramm had been content to live a quiet and relatively unambitious life working in a family pharmacy. But then he was spurred by a passion that is far stronger than any quest for power or glory. My guess is that many of the leaders in the Inc. audience will identify with Kramm's story far more strongly than they ever did with many of the supposed corporate superheroes who have emerged in recent years.
Staff writer Tahl Raz is no stranger to the ring -- at least as it appears on television. A lifelong boxing fan, he was surprised to learn about the sport's most brutal aspects in writing about Sugar Ray Leonard's efforts to reform the industry (" Sugar Ray Leonard's Toughest Fight"). Raz joined Inc. in 2001 after working as a reporter for The Jerusalem Post and as an editor for a now-defunct online magazine. His recent stories include a December cover story on the power of design in business and a January feature on the secrets of networking. This year he was named one of TJFR's "30 under 30" rising stars in business journalism.
Before editor-at-large Michael S. Hopkins began covering entrepreneurship for Inc. 15 years ago, he was a business owner himself. In 1985, he launched a fast-growth specialty foods business that folded after just two years, instilling in him an undying respect for "real" entrepreneurs. In 2001 his Inc. story about a young company's efforts to import programmers from all over the world to make Barbados the perfect 21st-century high-tech nation was anthologized in The Best Business Stories of the Year. In this issue, Hopkins writes about the much debated but always fascinating topic of leadership (" Why Leadership Is the Most Dangerous Idea in American Business").
Joan Raymond is a freelance writer who has worked for Newsweek, Business Week, Worth, Smart Money, American Demographics, and other national publications, covering everything from health and science to small business. In following U.S. businesses throughout the war in Iraq, she found reassurance in the "enlightening and illuminating" resilience of American entrepreneurs (" Enduring Lessons From a Short War"). She is currently working on a book about migraine care and treatment. A "truly horrific equestrian" who spends a lot of time on the ground, Raymond is pictured here with Thoroughbred Chief Constable.