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Former president Clinton shares advice at Autotask Community Live

At the Autotask Community Live 2017 conference this week, managed service providers got some words of advice from former president Bill Clinton.

Clinton, the 42nd president who was in office from 1993 to 2001, delivered a keynote address at the Autotask event, discussing topics ranging from his decision to unscramble GPS signals to the Human Genome Project. He also shared a few observations on running a business:

Establish a vision and don’t neglect the “how”

Clinton told Autotask Community Live attendees the job of a leader is to “tell people where we are,” establish a vision of where to go, involve the people who want to get there and then execute.

He emphasized the importance of discussing “how” a vision is to be executed during the decision-making process. He noted that public policy debates during his time in office often focused on what a policy aimed to do and its cost. As a consequence, very little discussion centered on how a particular idea was to be implemented, he said. He suggested the situation is compounded today in a Snapchat and Twitter world of 10-second and 140-character communications.

Deal with the unexpected

Business leaders must handle misfortune while still staying with the company’s vision, Clinton said.

“You have to deal with the unanticipated incoming fire,” he said. And leaders must consider the nature of the response, he added, noting if all an organization does is react, it can lose its original purpose.

Prepare to enter new territory

Clinton cited a takeaway from Ron Chernow’s soon-to-be-published biography of Ulysses S. Grant as an important lesson for business owners. Clinton, who apparently has had an early look at the book, said the bio discusses Grant’s Civil War strategy of renewing the initiative after each battle, rather than occupying territory. Occupation diverted troops who could not be used in future offensives.

Clinton also noted Grant fought his battles on unfamiliar territory. He suggested businesses should be built to “operate on unfamiliar ground” and prepared for the inescapability of change.

Crowdsource decision making

Clinton also cited the effectiveness of diverse groups in decision making as opposed to relying on a “lone genius.”

The wisdom of crowds, which reflect different ways of thinking and different instincts, performs better when it comes to addressing complex challenges, he told Autotask Community Live attendees.

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