Picture an entrepreneur. What comes to many people's minds is a sort of mad scientist of business creation--a person naturally exploding with new ideas about how to make a buck. That may be part of the story, but you know ideas alone don't build companies. Building takes leadership, and leadership takes continuous, counterintuitive, ego-minimizing work.
That was one lesson I took from a recent half-day meeting led by Alan Mulally, retired CEO of Ford and Boeing. It's surprising, actually, because leadership seems to come naturally to Mulally. He's disarming and enthusiastic, and when he talks to you, you feel as if you were the only other person in the room. But Mulally flatly denies that leadership is about charisma. ("Keep reminding yourself," he kept reminding the room, "it's not about you.") It's all about the plan. The leader's job is to ensure that the team has a compelling vision; to help everyone understand the strategy for realizing that vision; and to see that everyone is working together to implement the plan. When teams truly need to mesh, it doesn't matter whether you were once the world's best coder or salesperson or idea man. Your job is now facilitator. Behavior matters, says Mulally. What was allowed at Boeing and Ford: admitting problems and asking for help. What was not: texting in meetings, finger-pointing, putdowns, or anything else that interfered with a sense of shared effort. "Working together works," says Mulally. "Smart people working together always works."
The contrast between CEOs as team leaders and idea machines is a key theme in this issue of Inc. Cover subject Dick Costolo, who explains how he keeps focus on page 48, didn't have the idea for Twitter, for example, but he now has to build a great company on top of it. Like Mulally, Costolo believes behavior matters--once every quarter he personally teaches new managers how the Twitter culture works. "When an issue arises," he tells Inc. San Francisco bureau chief Jeff Bercovici, "I want people to know, this is what Dick would want me to do."
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Edo Segal, founder of bMuse, is a continuously rumbling idea volcano. The 19 little startups that compose his holding company make products ranging from toys to health tech to video software, most of them Segal's own inventions. "My mission is to create a lab environment in which fundamental innovation can happen," he tells senior contributing writer Burt Helm on page 77. It will be fascinating to see whether bMuse succeeds.
Speaking of smart, motivated teams working together, I'm pleased to report that Inc. is a finalist for a National Magazine Award for General Excellence, for the third time in four years. The award, given by editors from around the industry, recognizes publications for serving their readers exceptionally well. We're gratified that our peers think we deserve the recognition, but the only opinion that really matters is yours. We hope you agree.