Leading the Underdog

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We don’t often envy the leader whose company is lagging behind in its industry. The underdog company chases scraps of market share, often verges on collapse, and can’t afford to hire the most credentialed and experienced employees. Indeed, being the leader of an underdog is no easy task. And yet, by choosing to view the situation from a different perspective we can see that it has benefits and advantages all of its own.


A Good Story

Remember the movie Rocky? People love rooting for the underdog. It’s a story that everyone understands, resonates with, and wants to be a part of. Instead of ignoring or denying your company’s situation in the marketplace, embrace it. Help your employees and leadership team find their place in their own underdog narrative.


Fly Under the Radar

If you’re really an underdog, none of your competition cares about you. They’ve left you for dead. That’s a good thing. Revel in your obscurity. Take bigger risks, knowing that you won’t have much of an audience to potentially fail in front of. Devise strategies and bide your time. Let your competitors become complacent and lose touch with their customers while you prepare for your great comeback.


Training with Weights On

It’s said that money easily gained is easily lost. The opposite is also true: when every dollar counts, you will spend wisely. While your competitors are making frivolous and poorly thought out spending decisions, your organization is becoming lean and fit. In addition to highly disciplined cost controls, an underdog company is also forced to become more creative and resourceful than those in more cash comfortable positions. Instead of throwing money at problems, your team has to actually use its wits, which tends to produce real solutions, not temporary fixes.


Forging Relationships

In a time of crisis a person’s true character is revealed. For the underdog, there will be no shortage of crises, and each one will present an opportunity for you to assess how you and those around you respond to challenges and adversity. The final group of individuals that emerges with you from the trials of being an underdog will be a formidable and tested team.

The one thing you can’t do as the leader of an underdog company is forget your vision or settle for anything less than success. After the training is done and all the lessons have been learned as the underdog, it’s time to go and pick a fight with someone bigger than you. Or, in the words of Rocky Balboa, “go the distance.”


Images via FreeDigitalPhotos.net. “Businessman With Boxing Gloves” by Ambro. “Puppy Chihuahua” by olovedog.

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