Leader Letters are monthly letters from the Maintex Leadership team.Prompted by a popular podcast, Maintex president Linda Silverman examines what factors play a role in business success.
Living in Southern California, I spend a lot of time in my car. A great way to make the commute more bearable is listening to podcasts, and one of my favorites is an NPR show called “How I Built This” hosted by Guy Raz. The program features innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists who discuss the stories behind the businesses and movements they have created.
The insightful interviews feature leaders from companies like AirBnB, Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s, Lyft, and Crate & Barrel. At the conclusion of each episode Guy always asks a question that I think about a lot.
“Is your success a result of hard work or luck?”
How and why do we succeed at our work? What factors play a role? It could be talent. It could be luck and circumstance. It could be a great mentor. Or maybe it is determination and grit. It could be plain old hard work. In most instances, success probably arises from a combination of many factors.
Successful leaders know their strengths -- and their weaknesses
Everyone is talented in different ways. I believe the most successful leaders recognize and find work that plays to their individual strengths, and know where they need help.
Another way to think about this is the classic idea of “left brain vs. right brain” thinking. Left brained individuals are generally thought to be logical, analytical, orderly, and objective. Right brained people are more intuitive, creative, artistic, and imaginative. Matching your natural skill sets to your work can help you be more passionate about what you do. Enjoying your work improves motivation, which makes success much more likely.
How much does luck play a role in success?
The classic definition of luck is success or failure that is based on chance, rather than through our own actions. It’s the idea of being in “the right place at the right time.” But luck also applies to the circumstances we are born into, such as environments that enable and encourage us to reach our maximum potential. I was lucky to be born in the United States, and to have loving, supportive parents who worked hard to give me and my brother opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed.
Putting in the work
Many factors can play a role in success. But regardless of our individual talents and luck, I believe there is no substitute for hard work. Through dedication and determination, we gather knowledge and experiences and learn new ideas. Our experiences teach us to think critically and solve problems, which allows us to move toward our goals. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell says, “A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work."
What does success mean right now?
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how critical hard work is to success, but also how much luck can sometimes play a role. Maintex is extremely fortunate to be an essential business that can remain open during this difficult time, and we are doing our best every day to provide critical cleaning supplies while keeping our employees safe. Other business leaders are in even more difficult situations. The attributes that make a good leader -- talent, grit, determination, skill, and hard work -- are important regardless of the circumstance and will be key to driving our future economic recovery.
The Clean Up
If I were to answer Guy’s question about whether Maintex’s success is a result of hard work or luck, I would say the answer is both those things and more. Our success is also built on our values, our talented workforce, and our community. After all, no one attains success on their own!