The NIKE way of business: lessons from Mark Parker

It is natural to associate a successful business with its leaders, and modern society has developed a penchant for tying a name to a specific company, we see it with Steve Jobs and Apple, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, and Richard Branson and the Virgin Group. The front and center nature of popular media and culture has demanded that our leaders be held up not only for idol worship, but also for accountability. That is why some of the happiest companies in the world are led by a strong, competent, and ambitious leader who is not afraid of taking risks and breaking new ground in their respective industry. A leader that represents these qualities is likely to be inspiring to his workers and trendsetting for other leaders.

Mark Parker, the CEO and creative leader of Nike, has set the bar high for other leaders to match his level of dedication and passion for making his company the most successful athletic apparel and services company in the world. The Nike brand is about far more than fancy shoes and ad campaigns featuring the biggest stars of the sporting world; it has set a precedent for innovative product design and ambitious business ventures to broaden the scope and reach of their company. With hundreds of ideas being explored every year and thousands of prototypes discarded before reaching a marketable product, the headquarters of Nike can seem chaotic, like a whirlwind of creativity and an almost directionless flurry of activity. In some ways, it is the same as professional sports, fast-paced and difficult to navigate and understand unless you dig into the intricacies that make it so beautiful to watch. Parker has developed a form of leadership over this apparent melee of ideas and products that defies logic, but it stems from an unshakeable faith in the talented designers and researchers that work for him. He is actively engaged in development and testing of products, he wants to be intimately acquainted with everything that has the Nike Swoosh seal of excellence. That sort of accountability and involvement is rare, and shows not only a strong confidence of a leader in his company’s ability, but also a genuine passion for the job that bleeds into every corner of the business, inspiring everyone it touches.

Powerful, invested, and knowledgeable leadership is one of the cornerstones of company happiness, because there is a trickle down effect that impacts every aspect of the business. His confidence and excitement to show up at work each day is infectious. The ideas are fresh, the territory may be unknown, but he pushes forward and intoxicatingly drags an entire workforce along with him into a new generation of product design and marketing brilliance.

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Can Akdeniz

Can Akdeniz is the author of seven books and founder of Business Hacker, a popular business blog. His books such as Go Nuts, Cool Boss, Happy Company and MBA 2.0 have changed how people think about business, productivity and work.

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