Some would say Christopher Columbus was a mocked outcast on a mission in his day. Movies of Steve Jobs show his demeanor resulted in a similar reputation, until he became a household name. Cathy Truitt was ridiculed for not selling chicken on Sundays. Einstein went unrecognized until well into middle age, taking the belief he was an idiot, to his grave. How many leaders are in your midst that have been dismissed because they don’t approach life or work in the way that some senior manager says is the right way to do it? Leaders by their very nature are resistant in conforming to the current way of thinking. They do things differently and are perceived sometimes to be eccentric or even sarcastically unique, and yet, they lead. The real question is how many potential leaders are keeping quiet because of a need to be liked or followed or feeling there aren’t enough believers in their midst? This begs the question for all leaders out there sharing three answers through myths that persist for which accuracy must be brought to bear.
Who makes computers in colored shells? Who tells a mall manager Sunday is not a day of work at all? Two men the world now reveres whose products and meals millions will traverse miles to acquire. They didn’t think the same. They didn’t adhere to the company line or waste time thinking that how it’s done is what must already be going on. They led the effort to strike out in a new direction, yet the one who speaks up in your board room is all too quickly often shut down. Are we so afraid of change that we require each and every thing to remain the same? Do we really seek out leaders to be innovative or is that merely the latest in a long line of initiatives that sounded good at the time and that we now can’t legitimately seem to create? How much further could we be if we stopped looking at those with different ideas as the ones we believe create the most difficulty? New ideas and great things are not born of the same old, tired way of thinking. We joke and say we like to stick our neck out and try, but behave more like caveman father Crood when admonishing Guy. The employees you lead may be afraid to give you the new and risky ideas you say you need because the current model of leading doesn’t leave a lot of room for crazy thinking.
It is great navigation that keeps boats afloat. Just because everyone is going in the same direction, filling the same reservoir of water, doesn’t mean the ship won’t run amuck, it simply means it could happen at a higher sea level. The captain of the Costa Concordia didn’t fail because the water wasn’t deep, but because he steered the ship toward a drive by of a fellow captain’s weekend retreat. The saying goes “rising tides raise all boats” and what it means is that the more people you build up and develop on the team, the greater results will come from the team you lead. The challenge with this philosophy is that it requires everyone to be on the same page to some extent. It rules out the option for leading a maverick who sees the world in a different way and forces them to say, think, do, believe, and behave in much the same way, as the leader. Do we focus on leading each team member the same or do we alter our leadership skills to motivate and develop each unique team member in a unique way? If stand outs and those who speak up are going to be labeled as “screw ups” and trotted into HR, then conformity becomes the priority. Those passionately vocal about their idea, such as shorting the entire housing industry (see The Big Short movie), are often told to get back in line, labeled as foolish or drama queens, and left to rely on an often lacking self-esteem if they really believe in their own thinking. What if we were more open to new ideas and idea generation that might even result in an entirely new saying?
There seems to be a belief that anyone now can be an overnight success. All it takes is a viral video on You Tube, which you can record tonight. Those with success will tell you about a time when they were just a kid hustling for spending money on the South Side of Chicago and the hours spent working movin’ on up, without much help (Gardner). Those with success will tell you about the times they failed or were maybe even jailed (Branson). Those with success will have movies made about how much of a jerk they were early on and the lessons learned on their death bed (Jobs). Nothing in those examples indicates overnight success, but rather years of hard work most people are frankly not willing to invest. The pool of followers is not shrinking. There are 7.4 billion people on the planet and how many make the magazine covers or five o clock news? Fifty to eighty, tops? Over and over again? Leaders are what is needed, but if all we accept are leaders who act and think as everyone else does, oh what new places will we ever go, to modify a favorite Dr. Seuss quote.
Leadership and it’s true meaning is not a concept that’s easy. Deciding who and how to lead, unless it’s assigned to you, is not a decision most make freely. But what if, there were more leaders bold about their ideas who had support from people who simply trusted their abilities or were willing to see their suggestions with an open mind. Whether in a corporate setting, association board of directors, non-profit volunteer team, or in your own family, keep an eye out for the leaders in your midst. Maybe even follow them for a bit. Avoid assuming they’re outcasts due to their differences and if you’re one of them. and you have an idea that seems crazy, by all means keep leading anyway.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!