The Leadership Challenge: Competitiveness

The Point: If nothing truly happens in business until you sell something and the Darwinian principle of “only the strong survive” is alive and well in business today, we scratched our heads here at Tip of the Spear pondering exactly what role individual competitiveness plays across industry. After all, is your ability to compete a signal of success or certain doom/failure in business (and therefore in life)? So in this post, we’ll explore the leadership challenge of competitiveness… Enjoy!

The Leadership Challenge Competitiveness

Is Competitiveness an Economic Model?

Your ability to compete and win in business is a key differentiator for leaders that want to succeed. Have a good idea that you know will be the organization’s next homerun? You’d better be prepared to compete to get it on the agenda for the upcoming leadership meeting. Want to ensure that your monthly goals are met, even though it’s the final week of the month and you’re only 2/3 of the way there? Better fire-up the troops (yourself?) and get those competitive juices flowing STAT!

But what is it all worth, and why exert the effort? After all, aren’t there 12 months in a year (So what if we miss one month’s goals as long as we achieve the annual?) The truth is that while you can’t build a successful leadership career in one-month, the converse relationship of undoing a career can occur in a single moment (NOT the extended timeline of a 30+ day month!)

When it comes to career path success, a leader today will share with you that success can only come through successful competitiveness versus their peers. There are only so many “slots” on the career pyramid at the top to be had. Regardless of the “flatness” of your organization, there are/will always be more people clambering for these leadership roles than there are spots available to house them all. In other words, it’s a matter of economic supply and demand with competitiveness playing the differentiating factor.

Competitiveness Craziness

Amazon reached headline state for all the wrong reasons regarding competitiveness not too long ago. In 2015, the New York Times wrote how workers at Amazon often “complained about 80-hour work weeks, interrupted vacations, coworker sabotage, and little tolerance even for those struggling with life-threatening illnesses or family tragedies.” Worse yet, those that went out on maternity leave were left little time for maternity duties (as work was expected to still maintain a priority, especially seeing how there were countless others more than willing to take the place of those vacating).

Even the Whitehouse has been the subject of competitiveness craziness. Under the Jimmy Carter administration, an edict of spending more time in the evening with family was levied. However, most chose to work late into the evening as opposed to letting peer competitors pass them by in the dog-eat-dog world that is politics.

I’m a Leader… How Do I Become More Competitive?

I worked with a client that had a “Want to Move Up? Screw Up!” policy whereby in order to achieve a promotion, the leader would have to essentially make a mistake (potentially costing the organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars!) The organizational leaders questioned competitiveness, and instead rewarded those that in their eyes “put themselves out there for the sake of innovation where others did not.” With organizational politics at fever-pitch levels, what then is the poor high-potential future leader to do?


It’s important to know the culture of the organization at which you are competing. Know that organizational leaders reward the “bowl people over” theory of competitiveness? Begin bowling others over for success! See that “slow and steady wins the race” at your firm? Then curtail competiveness (but still ensure that you end up in the winner’s circle at the end of the race!) There simply is no “One Size Fits All” rule here when it comes to competitiveness, but culture identification is key to success.


Sam Palazzolo


PS – If you enjoyed this post on the leadership challenge of competitiveness, then I know you’ll enjoy my new book, “Leading at the Tip of the Spear: The Leader” It’s filled with antidotes to allow you to succeed on your leadership journey. Click the hyperlink above (or here:


Avatar About Sam Palazzolo, Managing Director

Sam Palazzolo is Managing Director at Tip of the Spear Ventures, an agile Venture Capital and Business Advisory Services firm specializing in Mergers & Acquisition, Sales / Business Development & Turnaround Management.