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What's LUCK got to do with Leadership?

How breakthroughs often happen despite the things we do, by Peter Lodemore

This week I was at a sports nutrition company to chat with their CEO about growing their business. During our conversation the CEO, Andrew, said sales had increased over 20% in the last 12 months. ‘That’s great’ I said. ‘How do you think that happened?’ He stroked his beard a while before replying, ‘I’m not sure… luck?’

Before dismissing this idea, what if Andrew is on to something? What if the invisible hand of luck is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in success? What if success finds us despite the ‘brilliant’ (often misguided) things we are actually doing?

Take me for example: I started writing articles in order to reach new clients. However, being completely honest about it (and I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, dear reader), these articles have so far produced exactly ZERO new clients knocking on my door. My success with finding new clients has a lot to do with luck: an unplanned conversation between an existing client and a third party, or I happen to chat to someone on a train or airplane which, funnily enough, is exactly how I met Andrew.

The luck Andrew talked about had similar characteristics to my own. He shared an example of how the guy who drives the forklift in his manufacturing plant started chatting with someone at a wedding reception who happened to be working at a health club; a chance encounter that ultimately resulted in the health club franchise stocking Andrew’s organic protein powder in all 17 of their outlets.

Does this mean I should ditch the writing and travel round and round on the Circle Line? And what should I recommend to Andrew: he sack his sales team and start attending parties?

Not necessarily.

What Andrew is doing is spending about a third of his time walking around chatting with his people. In these unplanned conversations he asks his people how things are going and shares his unbridled enthusiasm for how unique and brilliant their organic protein formula really is. It’s infectious and he’s famous for it.

On the surface, neither of us are actually doing things directly to grow our businesses. But that doesn’t mean we are wasting our time. Something is working; it’s just not clear how. What is the connection between the things we are both doing and the type of luck we are experiencing? And if we can understand the mechanisms of luck better, and we can, is there anything we can do to get ‘more lucky’ in our own endeavors?

Stay tuned for part 2 where I will focus on the science of luck: an emerging field of academic study - the first time the role of randomness in success and failure has been quantified. It dispels a lot of myths about how real breakthroughs happen, and throws light on the kind of luck Andrew and I are having. I will set out the 5 key things you can start doing to get ‘more lucky’, as well as what I am going to be doing (and NOT doing) with Andrew to help him grow his business. It won’t help you win the lottery but it will help you re-think growing your success.

Peter Lodemore is a disruptive and loving influence, leadership consultant, facilitator, coach, keynote speaker, and potter