Josh Sapan’s Far-sightedness Catalyzes Innovation
“One leader I know who’s especially good at this aspect of far-sight [curiosity-based testing of their vision] is Josh Sapan, the President and CEO of AMC Networks. Over the years, I’ve watched Josh throw out ideas about possible futures to his team, using a “where we could go” and “who we could be” frame that most people find both compelling and inclusive. At first, he can be charmingly self-deprecating about the possibility he’s presenting. And sometimes the ideas are shown to be unrealistic or not useful – and then Josh may be the first to let them go. But often the ideas take shape and acquire heft and power in the interchange, and as that happens I see Josh – and the team – gain ever greater confidence in the future they’re envisioning. I notice that even people who may not have been engaged by the idea to begin with start to feel the pull of the possibility: it becomes increasingly compelling to them as it’s shaped in conversation. And this approach, of reflecting on and discussing an idea together, is by its very nature inclusive. Under Josh’s stewardship, the AMC Networks brands have grown and prospered dramatically, and continue to break new ground in the media landscape – and I believe this ability of Josh’s, to envision new possibilities and then express them with increasing clarity and confidence, is an important element of that success.”
– From Chapter 3 of Leading So People Will Follow
I have the great pleasure of watching Josh in action on a regular basis. He holds a quarterly strategy meeting with his team that I get to facilitate. It’s a big meeting – almost 30 people – but it feels much smaller, because Josh creates such an open, inquisitive environment. Ideas get teed up, thrown around, pursued or dismissed. People ask questions, disagree, say “I don’t understand” or “What does that mean?” They laugh, listen to each other, stay engaged, get excited.
This is an important part of Josh’s far-sightedness: he focuses on the future in such a compelling and inclusive way that he draws people into a place of curiosity about the possibilities. He ignites their own farsightedness.
I’ve seen the power of this again and again. AMC Networks has had tremendous success over the past decade. Some of the key ideas have come from Josh, but most of them have come from folks on his team. He catalyzes, invites and rewards their vision. True farsightedness in a leader is infectious.