Dear CMO:

We’ve spoken a lot about influence over the past few months — even the past few days, to be honest — so I’m glad to point you to a new ‘must read’ coming out on August 27th from an old friend, advisor and corporate guru, Steven Feinberg, entitled, “The Advantage-Makers: How Exceptional Leaders Win by Creating Opportunities Others Don’t.”

Dr. Steve discusses the ways that successful executives create advantages that others, frankly, don’t — much to their and their company’s advantage. One of the most enduring lessons I gained from working with Steve was the metaphor of corporate topography: water will follow the lay of the land, regardless of how much you want it to flow uphill. This isn’t a metaphor about strategy — it’s a powerful lesson on adapting to corporate culture.

He asked me the other day what I thought the top five “advantage makers” were. Here’s what I said:

1. Cultural fluency: understand how to get the right things done “here.”

2. Pattern recognition: see the trajectory of the ball before others see the ball.

3. See the tree for the forest: know the one thing that needs doing, not all the things that need doing.

4. Mastery of metaphors: also known as compelling storytelling.

5. Hiding in plain sight: how to be a leader and a force without being perceived as a threat.

How would you grade yourself on these five advantages? Which are your strong points and which are your blindspots?

I don’t know if you agree or not, but feel free to add your thoughts. What are the key advantage makers in your experience?


PS: Steve works with corporate clients to help them optimize their organizational effectiveness, particularly at the executive level. His website is here.