Phil Knight is one of the richest men in the world. He founded Nike and made it a global brand. More than what he did with a company, one must look into what he did with an industry that did not exist. Back when Nike was founded, there was no industry for athletic shoes. The industry for traditional shoes was also not as well explored. Phil Knight did not just create an industry which paved the way for many other global brands but he also tapped into the manufacturing potential of Asia and set another new trend for the developed world, particularly for the United States.
Phil Knight leadership style should not be looked at from the perspective of employees, competition or from just an analytical point of view. He was one of the first entrepreneurs of present day America. He was not a businessman. He created a new domain, a new trend and went on to become a roaring success. One should assess the Phil Knight leadership style right from his business school days when he sowed the seeds of Nike.
Phil Knight is an exciting professional. He is personable. He is personable and compassionate. He listens to what his people has to say and leads them from the front. But beyond all the niceties, he is also a very demanding boss. He wants his people to perform and ensures that the practices and policies are in place to reward merit, hard work and performance and to penalize poor performance. Nike was one of the first major companies to have a policy to provide bonuses to the best performers and to sack the worst performers. In those days, firing was not a norm unless someone did something horribly wrong or illegal.
Phil Knight leadership style also includes some very innovative approaches as he had done with his company. He sold his brand’s credibility by getting celebrity athletes to endorse the shoes. Likewise, he took care of and won the trust of his distributors, suppliers, manufacturers and of his employees with various schemes and approaches. A hands-on leader, one who forms bonds or relationships and invests to maintain them, a man with charm and charisma and compassion that made him personable enough, Phil Knight is a true transformational leader and certainly one of the finest corporate leaders of the late 20th century and early 21st century.