Leadership Insights From The Third Door's Michael Combest

"Most companies do not know that the old “selling” game is now obsolete," says Chief Revenue Strategist Michael Combest of The Third Door.

"Our company takes a holistic view of organizations to align the mechanics that create and sustain real competitive advantage for companies from five to 50 million dollars," he adds.

This past week, Michael shared with me his insights about leadership, challenges faced by leader,s and what it means to be a leader.
  • Question:  What is your favorite leadership book and why is it your favorite?
Michael:  The Law by Frédéric Bastiat - Without an exposure to the concept of liberty and the affect bad laws have on good people, a prospective leader should not even try to put together an organization, regardless of size. It is important to understand and be inoculated from becoming, supporting or creating rent-seekers in an organization. New wealth creation (these days, “innovation”) has to be the driving force of every business – a relentless pursuit of a greater good that is fueled by the creation of profits.
  • Question:  What leadership skill did you learn as a teenager and that you still use today?
Michael:  What I have learned is that leadership requires being available and open. The more open and available the leader is, the better the organizational health. Recently, I blogged about what I feel is the most important characteristic of a leader - generosity.
  • Question:  You have concern about "unfocused leadership" in business today.  What is that "unfocused leadership" and why is it concerning?
Michael:  My experience is that most business leaders are interested in not losing too much, controlling HR fires, listening to internal factions fight over turf, or act as though they have arrived and waste precious time enjoying the emoluments of office.
Leadership is not focused on the future needs of the customer. Leadership is overly concerned with quarterly earnings and not focused on the development of the internal or external customers. This is not about volume; it is about bringing, propelling and encouraging positive change.
Today, leadership typically enlists the internal customer to do a job that is mostly uninspired, robbing them of their ability to experience pride in their work. Leadership is not focused on the very hard work of being a student of change, and feels accomplishment in mastering control, top-down directives and general order. This shortsighted view robs society of products and services and limits progress.
  • Question:  I want to be a leader who is remembered for...
Michael:  All I care about is that, by my actions, people are more free. Does this sound like dreamy hyperbole? It isn’t. My views on capitalism and profit are probably not as well developed as John Mackey’s, but it would be difficult to distinguish many differences. Capitalism is the greatest system for the generation and protection of freedom that humans have ever come up with.
If I can help people understand how to deserve and earn a profit, then that is the best thing I can ever do for them. Through The Third Door, my goal is to find efficiencies that free the creative energy of my clients, to do amazing things for their clients; to awaken leadership to think beyond their believed company potential.
Am I idealistic? Yes, I am. That’s why you want me working for you.
  • Question If a leader can have only three leadership skills, which three should they be and why?
Combest:  Leaders should be chronically rebellious. Leaders need to be a tireless and generous servant, and a friend to the creatives and oddballs.
Why? Because irrelevancy happens fast these days and the good ideas come from the darndest places.
  • Question:  Why do some leaders in business fail to grow their business?
Michael:  Leaders always fail for the same reason; they do not have a vision, product or service worth buying into or purchasing. You can’t force staff or customers to love you. If what a business has to offer is not great, then there is no reason to expect great returns. It is leadership’s responsibility to discover what is great and to exemplify what is great. Most leaders think they hire people to do these things.
  • Question:  Do you believe it is more difficult to be a leader who is younger or older in age?
Michael:  The age of the leader certainly has no bearing; the founding fathers of the US were unbelievably young, as was Joan of Arc, who was executed at about nineteen years of age. If anything, a case may be made that the younger minded the better. John Sculley almost killed Apple.. It could have been due to his years of experience. The younger minded Jobs brought it back to life.

Read more about some of Kansas City's most interesting leaders.


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