Great Leaders are Treasure Hunters

      Richard Shulze will never forget the tornado that forever changed his life. A successful businessman who owned and operated a chain of high-end, very profitable electronics stores in the upper Midwestern United States, life was good for Richard. Actually, it was great. But in a matter of minutes, his well-ordered world was turned upside down as a fierce storm ripped though his town, severely damaging his largest store and warehouse containing the bulk of his inventory.
      In the blink of an eye, a thriving business was reduced to rubble. Ambitious dreams quickly transformed to painful realities. And as is often the case when unexpected change descends upon us, Richard was left with a choice. He could allow his fear, anger, and disappointment about the situation at hand to dominate his thoughts and dictate his decisions. Or he could choose to embrace his circumstances and discover what treasure might be hidden, invisible in plain sight, amidst the ruins of his former reality.

      Richard chose the latter approach and decided to have a “tornado sale.” Repairing the inventory they could and offering everything at a discount, he and his team opened the doors of every undamaged store and warehouse to the public. People were even invited to pick items right off the shelves. Little did he realize his willingness to stretch outside his comfort zone and take this radically different approach to business was about to transform his life forever.
      The simplified structure and deep discounts Richard offered at his tornado sale turned out to be a smashing success. Every one of his stores and warehouses reported lines of people eager to find a deal. And when Richard and his staff tallied the final results, they were amazed to find it was the most profitable day in his company’s history.
      But here’s the important point. The treasure buried in the rubble of his former business wasn’t the money he made that day. It was the realization his old way of thinking about his business model of offering high-price, high-end products through standard selling strategies and traditional storefronts was good, but not necessarily great. As the unexpected success of his one-day tornado sale confirmed, selling quality goods at discount prices to the general public using a simple warehouse approach proved even better. So Richard chose to take the bold step of changing the way he did business permanently.
      And the rest is history.
      Today, Best Buy is the single largest discount electronics retailer in the world, boasting over one thousand stores. And it was only made possible because one man, Richard Shulze, chose to think differently and act boldly in moving out to build greater value into his surroundings.
      And happy consumers everywhere are certainly thankful he did.
      The moral of the story for all aspiring leaders is straightforward: Sometimes life will deal you a hand you didn’t expect or surely don’t like or want. What’s important, however, is how you choose to respond in those moments. Will you allow the fear of the unknown to convince you it’s best to play it safe and scurry for the perceived protection of the status quo? Or, will you risk walking differently in the world? Trusting that by choosing to reframe setbacks as opportunities, you gain much more than you have lost.
      Pay attention to your response. It not only speaks volumes of your willingness to see every experience in life to as an opportunity to try and grow into the best version of yourself possible. It also reveals the nature of your character.

Treasure Hunt -

John E. Michel is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. An accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster, he has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts and his award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website,