Gary Fisher, 64, a global icon, is called the father of mountain cycling. An American entrepreneur who designs and makes bicycles, Fisher discovered mountain biking as a young man, when he was suspended from a national bicycle race in the US on account of his long hair. To work off his frustration, he rode his cycle to the top of a hill, and rode down at break-neck speed, and discovered a new sport.
He also discovered that a cycle needed to be special for this sport, and began to engineer his own bicycles with strengthened forks and disc brakes machined from motorcycle parts. He set up MountainBikes in 1975, and Gary Fisher Mountain Bikes in 1983. Today, the world’s leading bike maker, Trek, has a range of premium cycles named after him.
Fisher spoke with HT about his ideas on innovation, leadership, and living a dream. Excerpts from the interview: What are the defining qualities of a true leader? A true leader is someone who can really understand what their wishes are and how they are thinking. A true leader is a person who first thinks, and then acts and inspires. Can you recall any instance when you were impressed by another person’s leadership qualities? Leadership quality comes to the surface when everyone is panicking. I had a partnership once that was becoming impossible for me. Then somebody (I don’t want to name them) solved my problem. Then I understood that everyone has their own specialty. Would you say that, in today’s world of cut-throat competition, true leadership has got lost somewhere along the way? I agree. This attitude of fierce target-driven performance appraisals, where a CEO does not have the time to find out why someone or something did not work, and sacking has become the norm rather than the exception, is destroying our world.
Accept the bad with the good, make everyone happy in the company. In fact there’s less and less loyalty in employees and employers both! Some leaders that you truly admire, in whatever field? The leaders I admire are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Jobs, because of his own ideas, he followed them and didn’t compromise. He is a completely inspiring person. Gates, he decided to go out and help the world. He was concerned about how to help the world by using all the money he made. I am really inspired by both of them. Someone you would like to emulate? No particular person. There are many great qualities in many people I meet, I admire and I would emulate. There are different qualities in people in different situations. I (make a note) and can learn from it someday. A true leader has a vision, and his whole attempt as an entrepreneur or in a leadership role, is to fulfil that vision. Comment. It’s absolutely true. A leader has to have a vision as to where you want to be and what you want to be.
A leader should know his goal and should inspire everyone (to travel with him to realise that vision). Would you say a leader who is running an enterprise on another’s behalf cannot exhibit his true potential? No I wouldn’t agree with this. It’s a little more complex than that. Leaders work in collaboration, and if they are not in collaboration, it’s a real problem. You should be careful about what you want to do. You should be careful about choosing your project and understand where it’s going to end up.
Sometimes a person who is involved (in a leadership position) is not a fighter, does not have the drive to achieve, so then it becomes a problem. You set great store by partnerships. How would you describe partnerships from the point of view of a business leader? Partnership is sometimes a great chemistry to work together. Not everyone thinks or works the same. They have different specialities, and we must admire that speciality. If there is a different player, it works all the better. A lesson in entrepreneurship that you will not forget… I learned this from my mother: First you need to have an idea. Then you need to execute it. But all this is nothing without marketing, without presentation. Good marketing is very important for success. Without marketing, it will remain just an idea. This is what helped me with my enterprise, and I strongly believe in it. Your leadership mantra for young entrepreneurs…
Dream, plan, envision and implement.