One of the leadership skills is to respond appropriately to competition challenges. Such challenge has recently dawned upon the Mozilla Firefox community with the recent hype about Google Chrome browser. The task was even more difficult, as it required addressing the online community’s fears after being challenged by a giant corporation.
Both Mitchell Baker and John Lilly from Mozilla have responded in their blogs to the Google challenge, and in my opinion they have done a great job. Here are the key elements of their responses that are most important in my opinion.
Respect – both Mozillians show respect towards the competitor. This may be linked to the financial support Mozilla gets from their contract with Google, but I believe that in general talking about your competitor with respect earns you points as a leader. It also helps to overcome fear, and it builds self confidence.
Positivity – both posts are positive in tone. Talking in SWOT terms, they show the opportunities – how the new external conditions can be leveraged by Mozilla, as more healthy competition in the browser world can result in even better Mozilla products. They also focus on strengths – what unique internal properties allow Mozilla to successfully compete in the new situation.
Focus on Core Mission and Values – this is especially visible in Mitchell’s post. She is not talking much about the competitor’s product, instead, she recalls mission, values and goals of Mozilla Foundation. By providing this point of view, the competitive threat is minimized, and motivation is increased. This is very much in line with the first leadership lesson from Mitchell Baker as described here.
Can you think of any other best practices when responding to a competitive threat in an open source, online community environment?