Be an idiot – it’s the only way to succeed

I had the great pleasure to hear Carla Bailo, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Nissan Americas, speak recently.

Listening to her reminded me that great leaders, regardless of whom they may be leading, have some common attributes.   In particular, I’ve noticed that great leaders make a point of learning from everyone they encounter.  They ask a lot of questions…and really listen…learn…and…apply.

In discussing her five year stint in Japan, Ms. Bailo said when you are in such a new environment; it’s your opportunity to “be an idiot.”  You aren’t expected to know anything, so you can safely ask a lot of questions.  In essence a license to be an idiot.

Ms. Bailo is anything but… In fact, as she provided some of the rules by which she lives, in the recent presentation, her wisdom was evident.   Here is my best attempt to recreate a few of them based on my chicken scratch notes.

Optimism finds a solution, negative is useless

Debate leads to the best decision

Promise and deliver – without fail

Fear and resistance are to be overcome

Failure breads success

Challenge the accepted way

Never forget to have fun

Don’t take everything personally, avoid getting a chip on your shoulder

Don’t regret mistakes, fix them

Treat others as you would want to be treated

Be open to criticism and be willing to change and improve

Listen. Listen. Listen.

It’s easy to see why Ms. Bailo is in the position she is – she is a humble, lifelong learner.   I hope to learn and apply some of her wisdom in my life.  Indeed, we should all feel empowered to be an idiot; it’s the only way to avoid really being one.

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