What separates Leaders from Great Leaders is Emotional Engagement in the Future

This fall I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about leadership. Now I recognize that the study of anything is a never ending story.  There is always more to be learned. This post attempts to push the boundaries of our understanding of what makes for genuinely great leadership.  

Earlier this week I posted a video on the importance of leaders having Humility & Patience. Today, I’m thinking out loud on what is the “x” factor that separates Leaders from the rare and precious GREAT LEADERS. 

The easy place to start is that Great Leaders of teams, departments, divisions or organizations deal with the problems of today and of tomorrow. Ordinary Leaders have their mind 99% focused on today, this quarter and fiscal year. 

Great Leaders take action on the problems of tomorrow by trusting the “little voice” inside them when it comes to identifying problems and opportunities. Note, the “little voice” is what I call “Whole Brain Intuition.”  It’s not just a gut instinct. But rather it’s an intuition that is guided by one part logical left brain and one part visionary right brain. 

Most important of all - they don’t simply give an order to someone to explore the “little voice” idea - be it a new technology, system or market opportunity. Rather, they get personally involved in exploring it. They get very close to the work. Seeing, feeling and experiencing the future is so very important to them that they invest their most precious asset - their time and energy to immerse themselves into what could be. They get EMOTIONALLY ENGAGED in exploration.

Importantly, they do this when times are bad as much as when times are good. They know that the only certainty is the need for an organization to change faster then the marketplace changes. They know that they must get ahead of their customers and competitors if they are to ensure long term success for their organization. 

Leaders - wait till they must change. 

Leaders - are Prudent and Proper 

Leaders - wait till an opportunity is proven and obvious before acting.  

Leaders - are always late with changes and are always reacting versus leading

Great Leaders - look around the corner - into the future. They embrace ideas, technology, opportunities before they are obvious.  Just as patent are awarded only to ideas that are non obvious - great leaders invest their time in ideas, technologies and opportunities that that don’t necessarily make sense in the here and now. Great leaders know that it is in the non obvious ideas that give their organization a meaningful competitive edge 

Instead of debating ideas to death - Great Leaders invest a portion of their time - every day and week - exploring the future. They get their hands dirty and their mind fully engaged in finding ways to twist and turn fresh ideas, technology, opportunities into something that their organization can leverage. 

Great Leaders are uniquely qualified to do this because she/he is the only one with the view of the whole. Great Leaders know that they are are the only one in the organization who can reorganize/recreate the current organizational chart and brands to fully leverage future business opportunities. 

Great Leaders - invest time and energy “messing around” with the new.  It can look like they are wasting their time.  However, suddenly and often without notice to others - they come to a conclusion to discard or deeply focus on an opportunity.  They are comfortable doing this because they are “close to the work” of the company. They have a true whole brain understanding of customers, their problems, the company’s offerings, capability and economic models.  

Ordinary Leaders on the other hand are experts at managing. Managing spreadsheets. Managing KPI’s. Managing the quarterly profit. Managing the here and now.  

Note - this blog post was inspired by and is dedicated to Maggie Nichols the Eureka! Ranch and Innovation Engineering Institute President and COO. Maggie is a Great Leader. She leads our organization into the future - thinking, challenging and immersing herself in where we are and where we are going.  She worries all the time about today and tomorrow. And that worry is a good worry - it’s a worry that comes from ownership of the mission and taking responsibility for all of our people, partners and students on and off campus.  

Have a great holiday and new years in what ever way you celebrate.

Doug

p.s. If you want to JOLT your leadership skills in the new year - consider joining me for our Innovation Engineering Black Belt Mastery Course at the world famous Eureka! Ranch in Cincinnati January 16 to 18. We can get you through the Pre-Req's if you act soon. To learn more click here.