“The wise man lives off the fool, and the fool lives off his job.” This old Spanish proverb is timeless – yet many leaders in the workplace lack the wisdom to create enough impact to be both successful and significant in their work.
How often do you feel foolish because you allow others to dictate your leadership style and approach? Leadership is about wisdom – giving you the know-how to avoid being foolishly taken advantage of – and then sharing that wisdom to help others learn and grow. Wise leaders are the ones whose presence, authenticity and the manner in which they communicate and engage with others are genuine and unique. They quickly earn respect – but realize it takes originality, creativity and uncommon thinking to sustain it.
Original leaders are the ones you remember the most and who set the standard by which you evaluate and assess other leaders. Originality is a leader’s ability to unleash their unique differences in thought in everything they do and how they do it. When a leader is original, their unique qualities define their distinction. Original leaders can quickly identify those people who respect their courageous and creative ways of thinking — versus those who become envious because they are still trying to appease others and be what others want them to be rather than what they seek to be themselves.
Brad Lea, Founder/CEO of LightSpeedVT, has built his business model around originality. “Originality is about being yourself – and encouraging others to be fearless enough to be themselves too,” he says. “Original leaders are pure thinkers that are passionate about converting differences into opportunities. They are fueled by the common sense that most people lack; what makes them uncommon is also what makes them exceptionally impactful.”
People are drawn to original leaders. They are curious about the unique ways they think and the unpredictable outcomes of their actions. People are drawn to be witness to an original leader’s next big move, decision and/or action – and how others react to it.
Original leaders don’t seek recognition; they would rather focus on creating impact and patiently earn respect that reverberates over time. They know that originality is the essence of great leadership and thus would rather get discovered for being courageous – for taking the calculated risks that others don’t and the results that come with it – so that their influence multiples across a broader platform that inspires others to be original as well.
Original leaders are potent pioneers – meaning they are constructively disruptive. Typically, original leaders are socially conscious individuals that believe in sustainability and creating a strong foundation for growth that can benefit others. When originality is spread fast and wide across the leadership landscape, innovation and initiative are always in motion. Without it, economic growth and global competitiveness are always in jeopardy.
“Many executives fear originality because of the unknown. They desperately cling to the status quo, and fail to realize that change is constant,” observes Rich Melcombe President & CEO of Richmel Media & Productions. “But originality is critical for effective leadership because it’s a necessary stepping stone for innovation, efficiency, growth, and most importantly, success. Originality is a key ingredient of a complex recipe enabling business growth and without it, there cannot be innovation.”
To be an original leader requires new levels of thinking that most wouldn’t have the courage to explore and put into action. Originality stems from one’s desire not to be average, common or just like everyone else. It requires you to think carefully about the people you associate yourself with, the content you read, the environment of leaders you surround yourself with, and the outside factors that shape the ways you lead – in other words, the totality of things that influence your thinking, how you act and when you take action. This is why originality is difficult to sustain, and a lonely process for those who try.
Originality is a powerful leadership trait. When someone calls your leadership original, it is one of the best compliments you can receive – especially if you are mindful enough to do something purposeful and responsible with it to advance and support others.
When you lead without originality, you allow others too much influence over your decisions; your judgment is clouded with uncertainty; and you miss the most obvious opportunities before you. As a result, you are not optimally leading and serving others to discover their full potential. You are being selfish and irresponsible.
Originality allows you to see things differently. You lead through a high-definition lens; you become much more mindful of your surroundings, clear about your actions and more focused with your intentions. It allows you to make wiser choices and smarter decisions (always mindful of the potential outcomes and consequences).
Originality helps you understand what you can and can’t do. Originality helps you stay true to your most authentic self, no matter what others are saying. Whether it is good or bad, you are focused on how to leverage your originality in ways that reverberate throughout the organization.
Are you conflicted? Conflict arises from ego and unknowingly creating tension with others. Leaders that lack originality make a living mimicking the originality of others – which makes it difficult to create competitive advantages.
Originality gives you greater clarity, a greater sense of humility, and greater peace of mind. You stop comparing yourself to others and begin to strategically focus your efforts on adding value to those you lead. You become more productive and efficient. You begin to multiply outcomes because you don’t allow the noise and opinions of others to stand in your way. You realize that originality allows you to gravitate toward the people that will make you stronger – rather than wasting time with those that frustrate you and weaken your resolve.
Are you at peace with your leadership identity and what it represents?
As you reflect upon the past 12 months – ask yourself: how has your maturity as a leader evolved? How is it contributing to help your employees, brands and organization flourish? Are you still battling the gulf between assimilation and authenticity, or have you found the courage to be original – to propel innovation and initiative with new ways of thinking in a global landscape that demands nothing less from its market leaders.