I know it’s almost impossible to reduce all of the qualities of an amazing leader down to two, but in my 40-year leadership experience there are two actions standout leaders take to distance themselves from the herd of leaders out there.
Gem #1: Stop doing stuff
Kinda goes against traditional thought but most leaders think winning is about performing the incremental miracle
; introducing something new that will take people’s breath away. And the academics and pundits add to this belief by talking about innovation as being exclusively reserved for creating something new. “Product innovation is the creation and subsequent introduction of a good or service that is either new, or an improved version of previous goods or services.”
— WikipediaSo the common perception is that to be innovative you must deliver something new or at least a significantly improved version of something that existed before.
Value creation is missing
The problem I have is that innovation by the common definition is silent on value creation; there’s no expressed connection.An entrepreneur could introduce a new product that flops in the market but the act would still be tagged as an innovative move.Innovation without value creation is useless because the purpose of innovation IS to add value. Introduce a new product that sucks value from the organization — because it’s unprofitable — is not innovative by anyone’s definition.In my experience, there is one innovative task that rarely gets mentioned. It’s a task in most organizations that isn’t treated as a high priority yet is produces amazing value.
Decrement to create space
And it’s the antithesis of doing new incremental things — it’s doing new decremental things; removing old things
in an organization that no longer add value and creating space in an organization to do new things that do add value.No organization has unlimited resources to continue adding new activities with added costs; decrementing frees up resources and cost to do something new.Great leaders treat removing stuff
as a high priority and they treat it as a core competency of their organizations that contributes vitally to their competitive advantage — most others don’t focus on it and hence are more challenged to maintain healthy cash flow margins in the face of having to innovate to offer new stuff.And decrementing is much more difficult to achieve than motivating people to do new exciting things; it’s simply not viewed as a “sexy” thing to do and people aren’t salivating to get on with removing the grunge that everyone know is there.
Cut the crap
Not only is it difficult to get people to sign on with cutting the crap
in an organization, it’s even more tough to actually remove the activities, programs, products and systems that have outlived their usefulness.Why? No one likes to give up anything regardless how unproductive it is. They don’t like their familiarity with anything being disrupted even though it makes perfect sense to do so. So employees who work on products with a small unprofitable market don’t want to lose their product work and analysts who maintain an obsolescent system would like to keep doing it.When the cut the crap
champion shows up there’s not a whole lot of willingness for owners of crap to give it up easily; they fight to hold on to it.
Gem #2: Stop reading books on leadership The Unmatchable’s
get to their lofty position by NOT following the prescriptions of others — they don’t read their sh** — they find their own way in the morass and complications of dealing with humans of all types.It’s not that text books and pundit readings are wrong necessarily, it’s just that they’re not good enough to make a leadership difference.There’s no formula for being an incredible leader. There are tons of things you can do to be an average one but the secret sauce to greatness
has to come from the individual not parchments with ascribed opinions from “experts”.My experience has taught me that there are many actions The Great One’s
take that are rarely found in a text book.
They believe that “heading slightly west” is a valid strategy despite the fact that the experts try to get you to believe that if you follow a precise process you will create the “perfect” plan. Rather, what is needed is an imprecise view
of the direction that should be taken with modifications made based on what is learned through execution. How many plans have you had that turned out the way you originally intended? Yup. Same.
Try a lot
They believe that the more try’s you make the greater the likelihood you’ll succeed. Their mindset is that if they get lucky and hit a home run on the first try, GREAT! but don’t count on it.The odds of getting it right the first time
are too low given the uncertainty and unpredictability of the markets we serve. If you’re not ready to try something else other than your first choice in times of chaotic change you’ll be unprepared when chaos strikes and you will fail. The Distinguishables
know that the text book might be helpful in choosing a direction, but eventual success comes to those who have made more attempts
than the rest of the crowd.
Do the opposite The Look-Up To’s
have the natural instinct to go in a 180 degree direction against the flow
of whatever is the current trend and give it a go. They understand that momentum and trends aren’t their friends when they are trying to garner a competitive advantage. If the market trend is toward lower calorie food products they do a 180. If the trend is to exceeding customer service expectations in the hostel business they do the opposite.
They don’t bet the farm on such moves but they are willing to make an investment that captures the attention of onlookers.In my experience, these two gems were instrumental in vaulting average leaders into really successful ones
. I’m thinking that if you want to be a standout leader you might want to give them a try.What do you think?Related: 5 Crazy Things I Did Every Day as Leader