4 Leadership Lessons from Gen. Petraeus - Modern Distribution Management

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4 Leadership Lessons from Gen. Petraeus

Retired military officer brings battle-tested tips to the boardroom.

The right strategy is just the first step for an effective leader, according to Gen. David Petraeus. And leadership is the same no matter whether you're on the battlefield or the boardroom, the retired four-star general told attendees at Epicor Software Corp.'s customer show last week in Nashville, TN.

Here are four areas Patraeus says leaders must get right for their companies to succeed:

1) Get the big ideas right. The correct strategy is the foundation for every operation, whether that's a military surge or change management within a corporation. "Whatever you do, you've got to get the big ideas right," Petraeus said.

2) Communicate. Clearly state the big idea to everyone throughout the organization. "The communication process, the first-day letter, the first-day speech," is critical to getting those ideas in front of team members and getting their buy-in, he said.

3) Implement. Follow your big idea with the right tactical maneuvers. Ask yourself, "What do you need to do every single day? What do you need to do a couple times a week?" Find out what must be done, measure it and be consistent in implementation.

4) Confront the big ideas. "A step that is often overlooked but is crucial," Petraeus said, is a formal process of confronting your initial big ideas and deciding which ones need to be refined and which should be "metaphorically shot and left by the side of the road."

Netflix as a prime example of a company that continually nailed this process, he said. Its initial big idea was DVD mail delivery, which was refined into streaming services, which was then refined into original programming, and most recently into feature films.

By following the four steps of strategic leadership, Netflix took down Blockbuster, which had one great big idea when it opened video rental stores in every community but failed to refine that idea when the market changed.

Petraeus now serves as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, part of the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP, which bought Epicor last year for an estimated $3.3 billion. He delivered one of the show's keynotes alongside Epicor CEO Joe Cowan in a Q&A format.

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