What Makes A Leader: Proper Risk Analysis, Cultivating a Team, and Staying True to Your Vision

Jaclyn Crawford Foresight, What Makes A Leader? Leave a Comment


How one business executive adopted lessons on leadership from Colin Powell.

One name that comes to mind when I think of leadership is Colin Powell. Powell’s “13 Rules of Leadership” had a profound impact on me when I saw his presentation years ago, and I have kept them in mind throughout my career. These three key takeaways have been invaluable in my daily leadership activities as President of Provade.

Fail Fast; Fix It Faster

Powell has a formula for balancing risk and action. He says you should only take action if you have between a 40 to 70 percent chance of being right. Any less, and your risk is too high. Any greater, and it is almost always too late. He calls this inaction “analysis paralysis,” and it is something I have taken to heart with regard to failure. I would rather risk failure to achieve small goals quickly than stagnate in planning mode. I embrace failure as a learning experience, but as a leader I have to be ready to get right back on the proverbial horse and try again.

Before founding Provade, I founded another Software as a Service (SaaS) company; at that time, the term “SaaS” did not exist yet, and the market was not quite ready for it. After the company was acquired by PeopleSoft, we shut down the cloud offering. By 2004, I was able to recognize that the market had changed and a SaaS offering could succeed. We launched Provade using the market insight gained from these past setbacks.

You Are Only As Strong as the Team You Build

While I advocate acting quickly, when it comes to building a team I take the slow and steady approach. Building and leading a strong team is about more than each individual’s skills. A good leader takes the time to build a team that is aligned to a common mission. I strive to foster a collaborative team environment, not an authoritative regime.

As Powell said, “Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.” And attracting top talent is only the beginning. Powell urges leaders not only to attract and attain good team members, but also to unleash them. I try to do the latter for my team and empower them to reach their full potential by praising their work and thanking them regularly, and also by getting to know them on a personal level.

Stay True to Your Vision

Above all, to be a successful leader you must stay true to your vision when faced with naysayers, business fads and those who are reluctant to change. Provade’s enterprise perspective gives us a unique approach in a space with many competitors. We take a holistic view of how our customers do business, while many of our competitors cling to the old-fashioned, stand-alone approach. Embracing a less conventional perspective has allowed Provade to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Powell calls “It if ain’t broken, don’t fix it” the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. In my leadership role at Provade, I strive to eschew inaction and reward those who cling staunchly to our core values while remaining flexible enough to quickly respond to failure. It is easy to chase fads, but it takes a lot more foresight and restraint to stay true to your vision.


Edward_JacksonEdward Jackson is President of Provade. Provade delivers the only enterprise vendor management system for global contingent workforce spend management. Its leadership and applications have been named to the Staffing Industry Analysts’ Staffing 100 and the HRO Today TekTonic Awards. The company’s SaaS solution helps Fortune 500 businesses achieve efficiency and measurable savings in their staffing, statement of work and services spending. 

Comments, thoughts, feedback?