Uber has had some serious battles - and losses - over the past year, from escalating sexual harassment allegations to illegal market manipulation to, most recently, the stepping down of its charismatic founder Travis Kalanick. As my colleague Erik Sherman recently pointed out, Uber has been concentrating on competition (the taxi cab industry, the government regulators, and, oddly enough,, its drivers) while its direct adversary, Lyft, has been concentrating on its growth with significant success.
There are many arguments why you shouldn't focus on competitors more than yourself.
TED speaker Nilofer Merchant illustrates it well in her upcoming book, The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World:
To rebel is to push against; to lead is to advocate for. To rebel is to say 'we won't'; to lead is to say 'we will.' To rebel is to deny the authority of others; to lead is to invoke your own authority. Rebels attack, while leaders drive towards something.
Rebellion requires an adversary, while leadership requires a collective vision. I would give three particularly important reasons to not define yourself based on a perceived enemy:
- You are giving away your power
- You are distracting yourself
- You are limiting your growth
I talk more about the reasons here, but the challenge is really the last one: You are limiting your growth. What happens when your rival is beaten? Then, by your very definition, you have to find another one. Worst case scenario, you create enemies simply to maintain momentum. And you have no one left to be your champion when you need it.
Instead, as Merchant illustrates, you should be cultivating leadership that uses ideas and values as a motivator, not simply by identifying "the other" or stopping "them" from winning. Otherwise, you risk building a culture based on winning at any cost rather than one built on agreed upon ethics and values.