Recently, I observed a head coach of a team yell at a player “What are you doing? Stay focused!” Her player had not being paying attention and the player she was guarding ran by her with the ball and scored. A day later in a business meeting, I observed a CEO tell one of his executives “These numbers are not good. Just go get it done!” Both the coach and CEO, leaders, were right in “what” they said. I call them “What” leaders, not to be confused with “how” leaders.
Jerry Seinfeld has a show on Netflix “Comedians in cars getting coffee” where he has conversations with successful comedians. In a recent show with Dave Chapelle, he visited Dave’s high school in an under-privileged part of New York where a recent donation of $17 million dollars led to a significant upgrade to their performance arts theater. Both comics marveled at the facility as it looked like a state-of-art venue that resembled any high-end theater in a major city. Seinfeld asked a fascinating question on stage in awe of what he was seeing: How can someone great come out a place like this? As a coach of dozens of executives and CEOs of organizations, I can tell you it is a question eerily similar what they ask themselves anytime a disruptive competitor shows up in the market, seemingly from nowhere started in a garage with some broke folks: Why did this not come from our highly-funded innovation centers and inspiring off-site exotic locations where have our retreats?