What makes a great leader? – Nilofer Merchant

“Author. Speaker. Based in Silicon Valley.” That’s how Nilofer Merchant describes herself on her personal site. Others describe her as a visionary, the “Jane Bond of Innovation”, a future thinker and she was also named the #1 person most likely to influence the future of management.  Seth Godin describes Nilofer Merchant as the “rare combination: strategic, well-researched, and actionable.” Besides thinking, writing and speaking, Nilofer Merchant has also personally launched 100 products, netting $18B in sales. She worked for major companies, like Apple, Autodesk, and Golive and guided companies such as Logitech, Symantec, HP, Yahoo, VMW are to develop new product strategies, enter new markets, defend against competitors, and optimize revenues. Nilofer reconciles things that are often considered opposing forces – doing right by people and delivering results, collaborating and keeping focus, having a social purpose, and making money. She believes in a sophisticated approach to business models where making money doesn’t mean losing purpose. Her mission and vision is in full alignment with the pillars of the credit union movement. Nilofer Merchant was a featured speaker at THINK 15. She believes that leaders need to get out of their comfort zone and design with intention for discomfort:
“What makes a great leader? Chances are you do what is comfortable. But that’s not what makes you successful. What makes you successful is actually to live in the tension of discomfort. If you do that, then you’d be willing to peek around the corner to see that thing(s) that will “disrupt” your work / industry /marketplace. You’d be willing to challenge something you’ve always taken for granted as “true” because only then can you learn something new. And you’d be willing to see the world through a new frame, which can often be the key to find new solutions to old problems. The problem is that, as humans, we all have a preference to spend time with people who are more like “us” and with ideas we already agree with — this is to choose knowing over unknowing, and to accept the existing frameworks in place (because then we know the rules by which winning happens). SO therein lies the tension. By default, you will choose comfort. And, as I’ve written before, there is a huge cost to comfort. With intention, you can design for discomfort.”