Steve Case (Revolution) in “The Corner Office”

Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York TimesCase, Stev. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Steve Case, the C.E.O. of Revolution, a firm involved in venture capital and other investing, was a co-founder of America Online.

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

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Bryant: What were some early leadership lessons for you?

The earliest ones probably related to just understanding that everybody is wired a little bit differently. Just because you think a certain way or are inclined to react a certain way doesn’t mean everybody thinks and reacts the same way. I think people just naturally presume that they look at a problem in a certain way and frame the issue in a certain way and that everybody else would look at it the same way.

I learned in my 20s that there are a lot of different ways to look at things, a lot of different filters that people put on, partly based on how they analyze the circumstance but also based on their own history and perspectives and biases and instincts and so forth. You have to be open-minded about that and listen to what’s being said — but also to what’s not said sometimes. Those discussions can lead you to different places.

Bryant: Other big leadership lessons?

Case: The core one is a Thomas Edison quote that summarizes my perspective on things, which is, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” I do believe in vision. I do believe in big ideas. I do believe in tackling problems that are complex and fighting battles that are worth fighting, and also trying to, in my case, create companies or back companies. That can change the world. The vision thing is really important — but the execution thing is really important, too. Having a good idea is not enough. You’ve got to figure out some way to balance that and complement that with great execution, which ultimately is people and priorities and things like that. You have to strike the right balance. If you have those together, I think anything is possible. If you don’t have both of them working together in a complementary, cohesive way, you’re not going to be successful.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.

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