Nike turned 50 this year. Many businesses don’t make it that long or are absorbed into larger enterprises by that time. Today, Nike is an estimated brand value of $19 billion and is the most valuable sports brand on the Forbes list. Lots of people are surprised to learn that it’s an Oregon company. If you know me, you know I’m a native Oregonian and proud to be. Although my home is NYC, I’ll never completely leave Oregon. Nike’s founders are native Oregonians. My family has a “shoe-string” relation to one of the founders, Bill Bowerman, and my brother-in-law had a long, successful career with Nike. I’m in Oregon this week for the holiday. Last night, I got a good-natured scolding when it was noticed that my socks were from Adidas. We are an all-Nike family for sure.
Leadership is a relationship that inspires growth. Nike clearly figured that out! Here are 5 lessons from Nike that anyone who sets out to lead others must learn:
1. Keep a promise
Nike started on a handshake. A couple of guys had an idea and shook on it. They kept their word. They had $1200 in the bank. No wordy contracts, no “your lawyer and my lawyer.” Your word is your bond.
Lesson: Do what you say you will do.
2. Simplify your Mission
Nike has never strayed from what they set out to do: Empower athletes. The Nike mission is to “Bring Inspiration & Innovation to Every Athlete in the World.” That mission is simple, clear and repeatable.
Lesson: Every one in your organization should be able to say your mission.
Nike started as Blue Ribbon Sports. Seven years later, they became Nike. The next year, they came out with their own line of shoes. It wasn’t until 1974 that the famous Waffle Trainer was introduced. Today, it’s been 50 years of adaptation. There really is no finish line.
Lesson: Continue to evolve.
4. Be Inclusive
Nike believes “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” Everyone can play a part. Success is not for the super stars. Your job is to inspire every single person in your organization.
Lesson: Make the dream possible for everyone.
5. Tell Your Story
Nike has done a good job of building the story into the brand. It works! The brand is a relationship with the market and leaders have a relationship with their market aka followers.
Lesson: Be fully who you are and share your human experiences.
By the way, I’m off to buy new Nike socks today.