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Inspired Leadership

Inspired Leadership – The Gaping Void

YOU MATTER

Yes. I’m speaking to you.

Regardless of title, social status or personal style, YOU can make a difference. The effects of your leadership are not limited to your own life. Your leadership can also have an enormous impact on the lives of others. In short, you matter.

I had the pleasure of attending a recent conference put on by the great team at The Art Of. The speakers at The Art of Leadership were world class and invigorating. Vijay Govindarajaan opened the day speaking on Reverse Innovation. Susan Cain discussed the Quiet Revolution. Jim Kouzes provided insights on Practices of Leadership. Mitch Joel enlightened leaders on the Five Massive Movements That Have Changed Business Forever. Then Marcus Buckingham closed the day discussing leadership insights from his years of research. The gist of all the speakers was this: be accountable for your actions because they do matter.

WE NEED YOU

Yes, I’m speaking to you again.

That you are here visiting my blog tells me a number of things about you. It’s very likely that you are A. able to read B. have a curious nature and C. that you’re passionate. These three characteristics are important because they can make you a better leader. You may be asking yourself ‘why should I become a better leader?’. The answer is because today, more than any other time in history, WE need YOU to lead.

Using the framework of great leadership provided by Jim Kouzes, I’ve tried to synthesize all that I learned so that YOU may become a better leader for us.

1. MODEL THE WAY

You have the ability to become a better leader than you are today. To make this shift, you have to be able to answer the two most common questions people ask of their leaders. Wherever you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, these questions do not change. These two questions are:

1. Who Am I?
2. Where Are We Going?

The Who Am I? question is extremely challenging. We can easily see others for who they are, but the introspective nature of this question makes it difficult for us to gain perspective about ourselves. The good news is that there are lots of tools to help you figure out who you are.

Marcus spoke of his new StandOut product that helps leaders see themselves as others do. Susan created the Quiet Quiz so that you become aware of the choices that will energize your actions. Other sources like Sally Hogshead’s {F}Score and Simon Sinek’s Start With Why may help you answer this question. Being able to answer the Who Am I? question is hard work, and you’re worth it.

Where Are We Going? is a great question that should get you thinking about your goals. Before you do that, consider the evidence and trends that will shape the future. You’ll want to choose a path that is just outside of your current capability but in line with consumer behaviors. Here are some specific trends to consider when setting your goals.

ACTION

- Answer these questions.

1. Good is the enemy of great. How might you strive for the latter?
2. Direct relationships are profoundly powerful. How can you create and leverage them?
3. How can you use consumer data to create actionable information that improves your customer’s experience?
4. How can you become more relevant and useful with your marketing?
5. Media has diverged into two forms: active and passive. Have you mapped your customer’s journey to learn how to best communicate with customers?
6. How might you prepare your company for a one screen world?

2. INSPIRE SHARED VISION

Imagination is powerful. When the process of imagining the future involves others, it can be downright transformative. Imagining a common future can help you connect individual employees to the greater purpose of your organization. This can be a more powerful motivational tool than money, bonuses or other carrot-like incentives. Consider this great example of shared vision from JFK.

“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish…. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”

ACTION

One way to inspire shared vision is to use collaborative games that allow employees to imagine the future of the company and their role in it. You might like to try having your staff imagine their future on the cover of a newspaper.

3. CHALLENGE THE PROCESS

Vijay made an excellent case for challenging the process when he asked “Why would a rich man want a poor man’s product?”. This line of questioning that he calls Reverse Innovation, allowed his team at GE to reframe the normal process of creating products and innovate their way to a new revenue stream.

The example used by Vijay was that of a typical ECG machine. Used by cardiologists around the world, these machines cost over $50,000 USD. While this product is great, its not practical for many rural developing nations. Often, there are no trained technologists to operate the machine, outlets to plug it into, or ways to transport it. The need to monitor a patient’s heart in rural India is no different than in downtown New York so the demand for a more practical product that works in rural India is real.

Rather than starting with the $50,000 USD device and trying to redesign a cheaper version of it, Vijay and his team looked at the usage requirements for rural India and redesigned solutions from there. They ended up with a battery operated, lightweight ECG machine that was simple to use and delivered world class accuracy for under $500 USD.

ACTION

Challenging the process is not as difficult as others might have you believe. There are several tools and tactics you could use. First among them are questions that start with why. Examine and re-evaluate everything you do by asking “why do we do it this way?”. Here are a number of other tactics you could try:

- How Might We …
- Bright Spot Modeling
- Forced Analogy innovation game
- Design Thinking for educators

4. ENABLE OTHERS TO ACT

The key thing to understand about innovation is that ideas lie at the source. Unfortunately, most ideas are incomplete. In this sense, innovation is a numbers game.

In order for your organization to become innovative, you need a plethora of ideas moving through and around the entire organization. This form of idea-pollination is important for two reasons. First, that good ideas can come from anywhere; from any person; from any silo. Secondly, one incomplete idea often needs to collide with another in order for it to become whole.

There are numerous ways to enable others to act and get ideas flowing. However, before anyone is willing to act on or share an idea, their environment must welcome it.

I believe its critical for your organization to prepare itself for ideation. Remove any artifacts, people or cultural norms that propagate apathy, bullying, fear or learned helplessness towards ideation. Without a nourishing environment, ideas have nothing to take root on and will die before their time.

ACTION

- Fail Fast
- Distributed decision making
- Get a slanted desk
- Productive physical spaces
- Rather than call more meetings, create whitespace for innovation: 20% time, Dabble Time, Facebook hackathons

5. ENCOURAGE THE HEART

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” Carl Jung

Jim did a fantastic job illustrating the point of encouragement by asking an important question. When you get encouragement, Jim asked, does it help you perform better? Everyone answered yes. There is a growing mountain of evidence which suggests that bottom line performance and low turnover are closely tied to employee satisfaction.

So what can you do?

ACTION

- Say thank you.
- Offer genuine praise.
- Practice watching for the genius in others.
- Care about and trust your staff.

PARTING THOUGHTS

I’d like to thank you for taking the time read this lengthy post. I know your time is precious and I hope you feel that spending your time here was valuable. Before you go, I have one last idea and a challenge for you. During her talk, Susan reminded me of a famous Albert Einstein quote:

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.

Now here is my challenge to you.

How might you empower those around you so that your organization can become more innovative?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1232555823 Ricardo Gurgel

    Great post ! Thank you Marc about it !!!

    My answer for your challenger: Challenging my employers to change the world, that they really matters and can change the world, and we each have key part to change people’s lives, challenge to discuss these ideas to found the best way to do this through our company! Let’s make this challenge, and bring the best to works together with us with same perspective about company and world.

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks for reading it Ricardo. I’m glad you found it helpful:)

  • http://twitter.com/SJAbbott Stephen Abbott

    This is a great post. I love how you’ve shifted away from ‘steps-to-follow’ or ‘characteristics-to-have’ trends of leadership. This gets to the heart of true leadership; (vision + attitude + actions) x sharing.

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      thanks for reading Stephen. I really appreciate the feedback on the style of this post – I think i’ll use this formula more often. Cheers,

      Marc

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