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Great Leaders Don't Talk About Revenue

It runs counter-intuitive to what we have been led to believe business is all about: make more money and everybody wins, surely? Talk about revenue so that everyone knows what’s important. What’s the problem?

Well, great leaders think differently. It’s not that they don’t think about revenue. On the contrary, they think about it all the time, but they are steadfast in the belief that revenue is not the goal.

Gokul Rajaram is a product engineering lead who has had the fortune of working with Larry Page at Google, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Jack Dorsey at Square. In a recent article penned by Gokul, he shared how in all his time at these three companies, he never heard these visionary founders talk about revenue. So how then do these leaders share direction with their stakeholders? According to Gokul:

They create compelling narratives. They articulate the company’s purpose and strategy, as well as how it will win a market. They obsess over customers and products.

All three implicitly understood this fundamental truth from Day 1 of founding their respective companies: revenue is a lagging indicator. Revenue is a natural outgrowth of doing the right things on every other dimension that matters. Purpose. Strategy. Customers. Products. Employees.

So, for those among you who want to become legendary leaders, stop saying “revenue” in public and private forums. Delete it from your lexicon when it comes to your interactions with your employees, investors and other stakeholders.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it’s going to be extremely hard. Revenue is a crutch.Talking about revenue is a shortcut for discussing the things that truly matter. Don’t take the easy way out. Frame goals in terms of the things that matter, the leading indicators of revenue. Purpose. Strategy. Customers. Products. Market share.

There are plenty of people within a company who will think about revenue, talk about it, obsess over it. As CEO, your goal is to keep the company and your team focused on an enduring purpose, a clear and compelling strategy, and on serving your customers better than anyone else can.

Page, Zuckerberg and Dorsey lead the way we see so many of our purpose-oriented clients leading, by articulating a very clear and singular purpose, sharing the vision for what the world looks like when that purpose is lived and creating a strategy, informed by this purpose that determines product, people, positioning and process.

It takes discipline to lead this way, but the clarity it brings to an organization is not just liberating, it’s revenue-generating. Oops, we’re not talking about that word here….