Egret Consulting – “Leadership” – The Buzz Volume 14 Issue 9


From our IRSA partner Mr. Ted Konnerth of Egret Consulting, who specialises solely in the LED lighting sector, presents their monthly newsletter “The Buzz”.  To view this edition of “The Buzz” in its original format, please click on this link.

 

Leadership

 

Leadership gets talked about a lot; from political leadership to team leadership to brand leadership. There’s an entire industry built around leadership training that can include $100,000 MBA executive programs, leadership testing regimens, hundreds of books and unlimited seminars on leadership. You can go broke learning how to be a leader.

 

We experience leadership every day in our office. We speak with the top level of leadership for clients and candidates within the electrical industry, which provides us with continual exposure to the breadth and depth of leadership in the industry. The scores of leadership testing programs out there all try to capture the essence of leadership within a 50 question internet test and then spew 8-10 pages of how each leader rates on empathy, decisiveness, ego-strength or the inverse of leadership: followership. When you’re trying to attract a leader into your company, external validation with any kind of test source provides some level of information. The devil in the details is to determine how useful and accurate that information is in practice.

 

Leadership falls into a catch-all category of ambiguity that was so eloquently summarized by the Supreme Court about pornography: I know when I see it. The beauty of leadership is that it is a term that is associated with individual attributes as well as brand identity and company identity. We can all agree that Apple is a leader in brand identity and product definition. The same can be said for Caterpillar, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. In our industry, leadership companies include Eaton, Graybar, GE and CED, etc. With the electrical industry going through a renaissance, leadership is a critical issue for legacy and nascent companies to address. Whether leadership is addressed at the functional level or at the corporate identity level, the issue is especially topical throughout the industry.

 

Top talent seeks out leadership companies. Companies with a clear strategic plan and universal acceptance are considered destination companies for talent. Google, Apple and eBay are examples of companies who are inundated with talent inquiries from successful technologists who willingly would leave their current company for a chance to work with those companies. The electrical industry isn’t quite as sexy as technology, so the chance to attract top talent requires some efforts in brand identity, creative and sincere recruitment efforts and a public image that identifies the company as a clear-cut leader.

 

I read a lot of PR releases, web feeds and industry trade sources so I tend to analyze how one company announces a product or a change in the company compared to other companies, i.e. how does the look and image of that company stack up against the 50-100 information flows I get weekly? Let’s take GE. GE is iconic and their stated strategy is to be the #1 or #2 in every category they compete in: turbines, medical imaging, adhesives, power distribution, appliances, etc. GE is an absolute destination company for any of those divisions.

 

Then there’s lighting… GE just announced spending $30M to develop their new line of halogen light bulbs. Halogen technology is an incandescent light bulb, enclosed in a quartz envelope that creates more heat on the filament which enables the lamp to emit more lumens/watt than a standard light bulb. It’s about 15-20% more efficient than the light bulbs that have been legislated out of existence due to their dismal efficiency. New halogen is about 1/10th the efficiency of current LED. GE is investing $30M in technology that should have an expiration date stamped on it. This is like IBM investing in a floppy disk plant. Talent attraction starts with company leadership: where is the company heading?

 

Then there’s Cree. Cree is 20 years old and in 20 years it has become one of the top 5 largest lighting companies in the world. It has surpassed GE Lighting, Cooper Lighting and Hubbell Lighting. Cree is re-writing the rules of lighting; single-handedly. Channel partners, product categories, lighting solutions are all changing. The legacy leaders of lighting largely sat out the technological changes for 3-4 years; firmly in denial of the future. Those leaders are now sitting behind Cree and trying to catch up. Acuity’s most recent numbers reported an ‘adoption’ rate for LED of 20% (about the same for Cooper and Hubbell). For Cree, that translates into an obsolescence rate of 80%. It all depends on which leaders are counting the numbers.

 

Then there’s Southwire. Wire is largely commoditized by the ampacity of the copper wire contained within the shielding medium. That makes wire appear to those of us outside the wire industry as generally all the same; hence a commodity. Southwire has in recent months launched a line of wire that is packaged in a manner that enables a contractor to pull it easier than the competition; using unique barrels, crates and pulley systems that can readily save labor costs to pull wire. If I wanted to join a wire company that demonstrates leadership with a clear direction for the future… I’d check out Southwire.

 

In short, leaders want to join leadership companies. Leadership manifests itself in a lot of ways and is difficult to quantify or accurately measure. But we sit at a viewpoint on the industry where we talk with leaders every day. We appreciate those leaders who truly transcend their peers; where results are evident and the direction is clear. It’s exposure to the breadth of leadership that enables our ability to define and attract leadership. We know it when we see it.

 

Written by Mr. Ted Konnerth


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