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Making a Difference


“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” - Steve Jobs

Vinod Khosla recently identified the seven most influential individuals that matter in clean technology at Frankly, we could add one to the list - Vinod Khosla, himself. Nevertheless, the list included, among others, Rob Gillette - CEO of First Solar, Jeff Immelt - CEO of General Electric, Steven Chu - U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Frederick W. Smith - Chairman and CEO of FedEx.

The point of this post, however, is not these leaders themselves, but what they are trying to do. To be sure, they are leading their organizations to succeed, as they should. I especially like Mr. Khosla’s observation about it being a focus on “good business, not a p.r. stunt.” But, they are also doing their best to predict the future by helping to create it, as Abraham Lincoln once observed. It’s not just about them and their individual organizations. It’s about all of us in an inclusive manner, to a degree. It takes innovative leaders to help create the future they see.

They are doing so through attributes like leadership and innovation, to my mind. I spoke of this previously in the following posts:

•         Practical Environmentalism

•         Sustaining Leadership - Learning From the Past to Focus on the Future

•         Innovation Can Be Magical

I won’t repeat the points I made there. But, there is a larger point to these building blocks, and why they truly matter. When an organization focuses upon performance, it’s a necessary focus, but it’s an inward focus. It helps the organization’s direct stakeholders. But, does it help society at large? In a limited fashion, perhaps, but not one that is truly revolutionary and transformational.

Think about this excerpt from John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech at Rice University, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” Clearly, this was not just a focus upon performance, but vision and leadership. Otherwise, the race to the moon wouldn’t have left earth’s orbit - we had not done it then, and had to learn the techniques and create the technologies to allow us to do so.

Leadership and innovation are critical. They are both inwardly and outwardly focused. They help to change what’s possible for an organization; but they often affect and influence in a much larger sphere, sometimes society at large.

Innovation is applied inspiration. And, true leaders innovate.

Congratulations to this group of individuals who are helping envision, incubate and facilitate a better future.


Comments (4) 

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Hi Pat - while I'm not aware of an e-card program, FedEx is very excited about our work on Trees for Troops with the Christmas Spirit Foundation. To learn more:

For more on what FedEx CEO Fred Smith's views on giving and making a difference, read this New York Times article from November 10, 2010:

Love your point about inward vrs. outward focus. Such an interesting consideration when planning performance, innovation and leadership.

I thought FEDX did e-cards to the troops. I was trying to find out if there is anything being offered to send to the troops on Veterans Day.

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About This Blogger

Mitch discusses sustainability, governance and energy management.

Other Posts by Mitch Jackson