Business & Leadership

Learn From Andy Grove on Making Waves in a Complacent World

Andrew Grove has a saying: "Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive." When the young nineteen year old emigrated to New York City almost fifty years ago, no one could have known that he would become “one of the master managers in the history of American business” as historian Richard Tedlow puts it. Grove went on to become one of the most influential engineers and would later help invent the Personal Computer industry.

Andrew Grove has a saying: "Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive." When the young nineteen year old emigrated to New York City almost fifty years ago, no one could have known that he would become “one of the master managers in the history of American business” as historian Richard Tedlow puts it. Grove went on to become one of the most influential engineers and would later help invent the Personal Computer industry.


On September 2nd 1936, Andrew Grove was born in Hungary into a Jewish middle-class family. He survived the Nazi and communist regimes and fled his country in 1956 during the Hungarian revolution for the United States where he attended the City College of New York. Upon his arrival in New York, he began to see how the New World was different from his home country which at the time was under communist regimes; the New York Times quoted him in an interview saying that in America “Friends told me that all I needed was ability. Americans don't know how lucky they are."

 

However, Grove made his mark in believing the idea that "knowledge power" trumps "position power." He had a continued belief that it is what you know, not what title you have in an organization that matters. More than anyone else, it was Grove who created the work culture that we see in the startups of Silicon Valley today. He was unique in his style of teaching. As an instructor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, he presented his class with real world case studies. For example, one time he proposed to his class a real life scenario that Grove was facing as CEO of Intel (founded in 1968) where a wrong decision could well ruin the business. He asked his class “what should the CEO do?” That big speech was three weeks away, and Grove had yet to make up his mind. He didn’t know the answer. And he taught his students that one cannot use knowledge without creativity and it showed that he himself did not seek advice from only powerful figures but from students who could think creatively.

 

His management style was that of certain convictions. Michael Kanellos at Forbes explains how, “Grove had a legendary temper and he could berate people for showing up late to work. But people who worked with him always held him in high regard.” Some of those principles by which he ran Intel, he adopted while growing up in Hungary as everything that Intel was, was not like Grove's life back home. At the heart of his management was the concept of “constructive confrontation” where according to Grove, he “encourages people to deal with problems without flinching. At its best people deal with each other very bluntly”. He learned that the people who make waves are the ones that create change.

 

In May 2016, the world lost this legendary man who changed the face of business in America. Until the last day of his life, at 79 years old, Grove was astonished by America. A penniless immigrant from an environment entirely unlike that in the United States went there and wound up at the center of the industry which is at the center of the world’s future.

 

Steve Jobs referred to Andrew as his mentor, and Marc Andreessen referred to him as the man who built Silicon Valley. Intel Chairman Andy Bryant said in a statement that Grove "combined the analytic approach of a scientist with an ability to engage others in honest and deep conversation, which sustained Intel's success over a period that saw the rise of the personal computer, the internet and Silicon Valley."

 

 

Isabella Veronesi

 

Photo: By Intel Free Press, CC BY 2.0

 

 

This article is dedicated to our fortnightly newsletter “Leaders Wisdom Journal”. To Subscribe.

 

 

Other articles of the same issue:

Saeed Amidi (Plug and Play): “Right now it is a Utopia for an entrepreneur”

Five CEOs who brought companies back from the brink (Part II)

Leadership vs. Management: Two different governance systems?

Wisdom on action

Wayne Dyer's Top 10 rules for success (video Youtube)

interview

Accenture's CEO and CFO interview by Leaders League Group

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