Lead, Don’t Follow

John McMahon, Claudia Kozma Kaplan and Ted Teng


Growing up, I always seemed to be in trouble for doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I got bored with the regular activities in my own backyard, so my friends and I would make up games and venture beyond the safety zone of our neighborhood—much to our parents’ alarm and consternation.

At the time, we were looking for new experiences by expanding our boundaries. Of course, our boundaries back then were pretty limited. Mostly, we visited playgrounds to challenge other kids in pick-up games of basketball, stickball and football. But the journeys paid off: we won some games and did pretty well in our quests to own the schoolyards of my New York neighborhood.

What I didn’t know as a child was that I was preparing myself for how I would conduct my business career as a grownup. Stepping outside of the safety zone as a child taught me to take risks, and even if I got in trouble or lost the ballgame, the experience was worth the pain. That same urge to go a bit farther, to find another ballpark, still drives me today.

So here’s my question to you: What would happen if each of you took that impossible idea that has been sitting in your head and acted on it? Maybe you would fail. I say, so what? It is always better to fail falling forward than standing still. At least you’ve made the effort, and losing one step for every two you take still gets you one step closer to your goal.

Pictured at left with me is Ted Teng, CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World, and Claudia Kozma Kaplan, who is the group’s senior vice president of marketing. We recently spent time together in Dublin at their sales and marketing conference. Ted is focused on the future. With the majority of Leading’s bookings coming from travel advisors, it is focused on helping agents become more productive. A major stakeholder in The Leading Hotels of the World is our cover-story subject Raymond Bickson, CEO of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. He is in the middle of a global expansion, and will be taking the luxury Taj brand outside of its home base of India. As they look for new ballparks in which to play, they are finding new ways to grow their businesses—and yours, too.

So, go play in someone else’s ball field. You can win. I know you can.

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