In Hollywood, Optimus Prime is a super hero from the planet Cybertron who transforms from a modified 379 Peterbilt Cab into a 30-foot tall, 10,000-part robot. He is the leader of the Autobots who roam the earth protecting humans from the evil Decepticons. However, in real life, Optimus Prime is the “baddest bull” in the Yunnan province of China (WSJ article by Bob Davis, 8/28/12).
Bull fighting in China is not a match of matador vs bull; it is bull vs bull. Like big horn sheep, they charge at full speed, smashing heads until one gets a migraine or is sent sprawling. Optimus Prime enters the ring draped in scarlet and gold like the champion he is. He doesn’t wait for the bell, but charges his unlucky opponent on sight, bashes him with his horns, sending him running away in panic—like a first round knockout in boxing. He celebrates his victory with four dozen eggs; his owner gets bragging rights and prize money of up to $8000—big money in that part of China.
By now, you are asking: what does this have to do with leadership? Be patient; I’m getting there.
Optimus Prime hasn’t always been Optimus Prime. He started his career as…Little Bull. (I didn’t make that up.)
A typical match went this way:
Announcer: “Little Bull is fighting Megatron in the next match.”
(Who would you bet on?)
One minute goes by.
Announcer: “Megatron is on the run. He wants no part of Little Bull. The Little Bull has taken out the big bull again.”
The point of this is that it is not his name that makes Optimus Prime a champion. He is a champion—the best—whether he is called Little Bull or Optimus Prime.
Now the truth is, from a marketing and branding standpoint, Optimus Prime is a better name than Little Bull. But if he were not the best bull, it wouldn’t matter what he is called.
The same is true for your organization. Having a great name may attract attention, but only being the best bull will win the prize. Is Apple a better name than Hewlett Packard? Toyota better than GM? Coke than Pepsi? Coke is the champion because it is better than Pepsi, not because of the name. (I admit to a bit of southern bias here.)
You can change your name from Little Bull to whatever, but it won’t matter unless you focus on being better than the other bulls. And that’s no bull.
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© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner