The first time John Riccitiello managed employees he was 15 and going door-to-door selling lawn services and hiring salespeople. The company he worked for didn’t discover his young age until they asked him to drive the van and he had to admit he wasn’t old enough to have a driver’s license. Riccitiello has gone from selling lawn services to the head of Häagen-Dazs International, Wilson Sporting Goods and now CEO of the $3.8 billion company Electronic Arts. He recently told the New York Times his success – from age 15 to now – has been a product of painting clear pictures for employees.
Q. Any sense of why they gave you the job?
A. I generally think, especially early in a career, what distinguishes leaders oftentimes is whether they paint a picture. The word “vision” can sometimes be horribly overused, but they paint a picture of the way it’s supposed to work, and it resonates with people. And so I think at that point I had a view that we could generate a lot more revenue per household if we bundled some services. It was a logical way to sell, and it worked really well. They wanted me to teach other people to do the same thing.
Q. Talk about some of the leadership lessons you’ve learned.
A. When you’re working on a business and it’s small, you’re a clear part of the equation yourself. When you get the scale, though, you’re mostly painting a picture for a lot of people for whom you’re just a concept, as opposed to a friend. So you’ve got to find a way to be incredibly consistent, so when other people repeat the same thing it conjures up the same picture, the same vision for everyone else.