Life and business are unpredictable. Sometimes, challenging circumstances arise that throw you into new directions and you somehow step up to the plate to make things happen. That is exactly what Gert Boyle did when she found herself ascending to the role of president and eventually chairman of Columbia Sportswear (“How Did I Get Here?: Gert Boyle” Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/14/16–3/20/16, p. 84):
“My husband ran my dad’s hat company. He took out a loan in September 1970 and died that December, at 47. Our house and my mother’s house were collateral. I was the only logical person to take over: a housewife who didn’t know anything.”
Anytime we are thrown into unexpected, overwhelming circumstances, all we can do is to do what we can do. Boyle was no different. She realized that she had to make things happen using whatever was available:
“You do what you have to do—and if you don’t know, you ask somebody.”
With all our sophisticated business tools, it is easy to overlook the basics. Boyle chose to start with the basics. I think it paid off. The company recently achieved $2.3 billion in annual revenue.
Sometimes being one tough leader simply means that we tackle what is in front of us, and if we don’t know something, then find someone to ask.