I just came across an interesting article from CNN Money on the story of Microsoft’s Surface product line. Apparently somewhere along the path to the success that the Surface Pro 3 has turned out to be, Microsoft lost lots of money on intermediary product versions. Particularly, they were left with $1 billion worth of Surface 2 inventory. Microsoft never wavered in their support for the guy behind the Surface line, Panos Panay. That my friends, is the essence of leadership. You ain’t a leader until passion has gotten you in a position where you’ve either questioned your own sanity or been suspected of lunacy by others.
I recall my own entrepreneurial dabblings. I remember “fondly” those moments where you had to put rationality aside in accepting that the only way to dig yourself out of a financial hole was to throw more money at the problem. All the while investors, partners, peers, subordinates would gossip behind your back that you had lost your marbles. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and agreeing in my mind with them all: “yes, I am completely nuts to take these risks”. Then the sun would slowly come up and I would remember why I believed in the pursuit. You would get the courage to face another day. More importantly, you would get the energy to motivate those working with you about following you even further into the unknown.
Napoleon was right. The line between sublime and ridiculous is thin indeed. It takes a true leader to walk it, and it takes tremendous energy to keep your own rationality in check.
Also, it’s important not to underestimate the sun. We would have much fewer entrepreneurs was it not for sunshine.