"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. "
— Bruce Lee, actor, martial artist
Welcome to The Credo of the Liquid Leader
It was all the way back in 1997, but I remember the invitation card well. Printed on a bone-white stock, it cordially requested the presence of my wife and me at the State Theater at New York City’s Lincoln Center, to attend Forbes magazine’s eightieth anniversary party. Clearly etched on the invitation was a quote by the science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
It was one of my own favorite quotes, but I wondered why it had been included on the invitation. Did it refer to the wave of new technology brought about by the dot-com revolution, or only to the fact that the magician David Copperfield was scheduled to kick off the festivities with a private performance?
I was, at that point in my career, very familiar with dot coms, having cofounded one myself only a few years earlier: K2 Design, Inc. Not only had Douglas Cleek and I created the first full-service interactive agency in the history of advertising, but we’d given the world its first dot-com as well, launching our IPO in 1996 for $7 million. It had taken a lot of ninety-five-hour weeks to sustain a growth rate of 425 percent for five straight years, and by the time of the Forbes magazine party, I was feeling tired in every way possible—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Even so, I was ready to be entertained.
Torrential rain had fallen from the Manhattan skies at the exact moment my wife and I had been required to exit our cab, sans umbrella, at the front of the New York State Theater (now the David H. Koch Theater), and hustle across the pavement. We arrived in the main hall a little wet— and promptly forgot about it, dazzled as we were by the oversize glass diamonds inlaid into fifty-foot expanses of crushed burgundy- and gold- colored velvet, stretching from floor to ceiling. There’s a reason they nicknamed this theater the Jewelry Box.
As we took our seats, I noticed members of the Forbes family sitting in the balconies. The lights dimmed. Steve Forbes and many of the people associated with Forbes magazine took to the podium and spoke.
Then the real presentation began. A fifteen-minute movie explained to the New York business elite that every hundred years a technological revolution comes along that’s so big, it changes our way of life forever. They were talking about the Internet and about the young entrepreneurs who were permanently changing the business landscape. I thought, "So that’s why I was invited."
Of course the movie ended with the same Arthur C. Clarke quote from the invitation, blazing from the screen in gigantic white letters against a burnt sienna background:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Then the movie screen disappeared, and David Copperfield performed some “real” magic.
After an amazingly intimate performance made up of big-stage illusions mixed with sleight-of-hand card tricks and ending with an indoor snowstorm, we returned to the main lobby. Under dim lights, surrounded by neon-lit palm trees and waiters and waitresses in sci-fi costumes, we watched as a light show and dance music turned the sweeping carpeted staircases and marble-floored lobby into a scene from the future. It seemed as if we had been beamed into the future. Over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, I met Donald Trump and David Copperfield. This was Yuge;-)
Far away from the festivities, I noticed, Steve Forbes and his wife, Sabina, were enjoying the party—and strangely enough, without facing a long line of well-wishers. I introduced myself and my wife, and we spent twenty minutes chatting with our hosts. It was as if we were old friends.
“I just took my company public,” I told him. “And which one is that?” He appeared to be genuinely curious. “K2 Design.” “Congratulations. You know, because of guys like you, things will never
be the same.” That was an understatement. Yet as a longtime entrepreneur, I hadn’t seen anything special about what I’d been doing. To me it was just another business venture.
That was the moment I first began to step outside my old paradigm. It wouldn’t be long before I realized that the dot-com boom had been the direct result of a different kind of thinking—not just technological advances, but a new type of computer-savvy workforce, with workers who acted more like entrepreneurs than employees. With global opportunities at our fingertips, the business world was undergoing a fundamental change. Something new was on the horizon, but where and how would we get there?
And then an even bigger question: Who would lead us? Historic hierarchies were in the process of being destroyed. Everyone would soon be a potential leader—not just the Boomers, but the Gen Xers and Gen Y Millennials whose creativity I’d tapped at K2, and the future generations. We’d be responsible not just for our own careers but also for the futures of our organizations. To make this new era of leadership work, we’d need a primer, a set of basic laws.
That primer—the result of long and hard-thought research, seasoning, and battlefield testing—is what you now hold in your hands. As a speaker and coach, I teach entrepreneurs, executives, and businesses leaders how to manage themselves and their organizations in a time of radical change.
At the center of my teaching is the concept I call “Liquid Leadership.” The new leadership requires adaptability, transparency, and strength, all of which are characteristics of water. Instead of resisting change, aren’t we better off adopting a flexible attitude, in which anything is possible? Indeed we are, so long as we observe the immutable laws I’ve identified for a Liquid Leader.
There are seven of these laws. Over the next 7 weeks, I will lay before you my credo...the Credo of a Liquid Leader; management techniques I have implemented to run over 8 successful companies.
Even if you try just one, you WILL see results. Enjoy...
Global Management Consultant
Millennial Expert, Cross Generational Leadership Development & Workforce Performance Strategies, Executive Coach
TEDX Speaker, Web pioneer and the author of the award-winning, bestseller Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia, Brad is a former C-level executive of a publicly traded company that he cofounded that went from entrepreneurial start-up to IPO in three years; the first Dot Com Agency to go public on NASDAQ. His company K2 Design, experienced 425% hyper-growth, due in part to a unique management style that won his company the Arthur Andersen NY Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation.
Today the world’s leading business publications seek out Brad’s insights on Millennials, and he has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Inc., Advertising Age, The International Business Times, and The Hindu BusinessLine to name a few, along with television, radio and podcast appearances on CBS and other media outlets.
Brad's programs have transformed a new generation of business leaders, helping them maximize their corporate culture, expectations, productivity, and sales growth in The Information Age.
* 2011 Axiom Business Book silver medal winner in the leadership
* #1 Amazon Best-Selling Author
"I just had my mind blown..." - A.S., Vistage, New York
Liquid Leadership by Brad Szollose is available at all major bookstores and for Kindle, Nook, iPad and Sony ereaders. Internationally published in India and S. Korea.