To Kill a Giant: Leading David against Goliath

I was fortunate in many ways to “grow up” in my career within a “Giant.”  The $750 million dollar business unit I led had major competitors, but we were the leader in our industry.  Given that the products I was responsible for were all FDA-regulated, our marketing revolved around the art and science of relationships…and pricing.

In our industry, the excitement always came from promising medical advancements rather than competitive movements, or from outside the industry as with Greenpeace’s unsuccessful attempt to “take down” my product line that I chronicled here.

So, I was thrilled when my executive colleague Stephen Denny mentioned to me a few months ago that he was writing a book entitled, Killing Giants.  I was anxious to read about and learn from a variety of experiences on the “other side of the fence.”

In the book, Stephen addresses concepts that include how to fight a war of nuance, how to create a culture of speed, how to polarize on purpose and even how to fight dirty.  But my favorite chapter in the book is called, “Seizing the Microphone.”  I connected completely with the way Stephen introduced the concept:

Revenue doesn’t equal personality, nor is market share equivalent to emotional connection.  You don’t have to accept that you’re not big enough to be the industry spokesman, so naively grab the microphone and speak up for the whole industry.

I love that!  It resonated with me on such a personal level because so often I find myself wanting to send an emotional message out into the universe and I stop myself thinking, “It’s not my place.”  I know marketers – especially in risk-averse environments – do the very same thing with their brands.

Stephen’s message is make it your place.  Your audience is waiting.

What I found especially powerful about this message in Killing Giants is it comes with great responsibility:

When you choose to seize the microphone you commit to understanding your customer better than anyone else.  You get them and they get you.

Stephen then goes on to share stories of brands and CEOs that do a brilliant job with this, including:

  • How GoDaddy seized the mic at SuperBowl XXXIX and effectively became the conversation in the domain name registration space
  • How Miki House lives its vision not just through the clothing it sells for children, but the way it has seized its microphone to advocate for children’s culture
  • How Fiskars created passionate believers and a movement by being passionate believers in a highly commoditized business.  This is one of my favorite stories Stephen chronicles because of my respect for the Brains on Fire team that helped bring this movement to life.

Through these stories Stephen shares some of the key lessons these companies – and their leaders – have learned while seizing the microphone in their industries, my “Favorite Five” being:

  1. Big visions empower big voices
  2. Social means personal
  3. Authenticity, leadership and market stewardship all matter – and it starts with the CEO
  4. You can make yourself indispensable my making yourself impossible to miss
  5. If your industry is dominated by giants who are focused on each other, go talk to your customers

To learn more about how small companies and small brands can compete against the giants in their industry, and in particular how the leaders of these companies use decision making strategically, please join Steve Woodruff and me as we welcome Killing Giants author Stephen Denny as our guest-host to Leadership Chat this Tuesday evening, March 29th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time.  We’d be honored to see you there!

As always, a transcript of the chat will be available the following day on our Leadership Chat website, and we encourage you to peruse it for leadership gems if you are not able to make the live chat.  Leadership Chat happens every Tuesday evening on Twitter at 8pm ET – if you cannot make it this week please feel free to join us in the future!


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Order Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry wherever you buy books:

In the US: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM! | Borders | Indi Bound | 800 CEO READ

In the UK: Amazon | Waterstones

In Australia: QBD | Emporium Books | Angus & Robertson | Big W Entertainment | Boomerang Books | Booktopia

In New Zealand: Mighty Ape

In South Africa: Loot


  1. Lisa: thank you and glad to hear your thoughts on the book! As Tamsin Smith, former president of Product(RED) said elsewhere in Killing Giants, “Sometimes you can create passionate believers by being a passionate believer.”

    Looking forward to #Leadershipchat tomorrow –
    Stephen Denny´s last blog post ..The Role of Leadership in Decision Making- Input- Alignment &amp Execution

    • You’re welcome, Stephen – it’s a fantastic book for both leaders and marketers. And I love that quote! Looking forward to having you as our guest tomorrow night on Leadership Chat!

  2. Lisa – You sold me (or better yet, you led me)- I am getting this book!

    Thank you for highlighting some of the major points displayed in Denny’s book on Killing Giants. I love the GRAB THE MIC concept – so, so true.

    I have witnessed how some “UnderDog” companies will settle for “scraps” from the lead dog instead of asserting their place in the market. And unfortunately, this hurts their brand, and they end up getting what they ask for…”scraps” I believe it starts with the Culture and Vision of the company and leadership – and as we have seen, it all begins there.

    This is an excellent post (again) and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s LeadershipChat.

    You are on a roll, Lisa – thanks for your continued inspiration!


    • Thank you, Steve – so glad you’re inspired to get the book. And you know that I couldn’t agree with you more…it all starts with Vision and Values. Looking forward to seeing you tonight.

  3. Lisa – Sounds like a great read. I really like the “seizing the microphone” concept. Not just in leadership, but in life – it usually seems the spoils go to those that are bold and commit. Thanks for sharing.
    Chuck Hebert´s last blog post ..Building Moats for Success

    • It is, Chuck – and so glad we’re both on the same page about “Seizing the mic.” The importance of being bold and committed resonates throughout the book…I think you’d enjoy it. I hope we’ll have the pleasure of having you join us tonight – or perhaps for another chat in the future. All the very best!

  4. I think about this kind of subject daily. There are plenty of companies much bigger than the one I market for but it really does not matter to me. There are ways to make your voice and get others to be a voice with you. This is now my second company I have had the privilege of watching that take place. Thankfully I am much more empowered to make a voice and grab the mic like you said Lisa. Great topic!
    Jonathan Saar´s last blog post ..Building a Community on Lint and Marshmallows

    • Jonathan, I can hear the energy in your comment…so excited that you feel it as empowerment! You’ll take the company anywhere you wish to go with that energy. All the best!


  1. […] Stephen will be our guest this week on LeadershipChat, where we will discuss Leadership and Decision-Making (Tuesday, March 29, 8 pm ET, #LeadershipChat on Twitter). Please be sure to read the preparatory post written by my talented co-host, Lisa Petrilli (To Kill a Giant: Leading David against Goliath) […]

  2. […] To Kill a Giant: Leading David against Goliath – Lisa […]

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