Viewpoint 12 | Developing Leaders Issue 27: 2017 A Century of Champions and Unicorns Established Players and Start-ups: Innovation, Execution and Fighting Bureaucracy By Christian Stadler C ompanies are expected to deliver strong results today and reliable profits in the future. They have to outmanoeuvre major players and unpredictable start-ups. They have to exploit existing products and at the same time come up with new breakthrough solutions. The list continues but the principle is clear: companies are pulled in different, sometimes opposing directions. A particularly tough challenge is the obligation to deliver both short and long-term performance. In a search for the right approach under such circumstances I decided to do the obvious: take companies that achieve long-term success and compare them with fast growing start-ups. If I find commonalities, that’s a good indication of what might enable acceleration and endurance. I combined my decade of research on century champions with a new study I conducted on unicorns, start-ups valued at $1billion or more, typically in the tech sector. Three valuable insights emerged: successful companies master both innovation and execution; they never take their eye off the frontline; and their leaders are insiders but not necessarily charismatic.