A wise manager once told me that advice in one of my performance reviews…He said Melissa—you are innovative, so ahead of the curve…but you need to realize that if you are a leader and you get too far ahead of the crowd, there is no one following you–by definition you aren’t a leader at all. These are words I now live by.
I love understanding innovations. I love seeing trends before they become popular. It is my differentiator. But none of it matters, unless you can educate and bring others along with you. Unless you can help people understand what and why they should care. Now that is leadership…helping to educate and inspire people to take risks; helping people see your vision; helping others seize the great opportunities before them.
Four ways to pull the reins on the edge and successfully lead:
- Wait. This is the action I hate the most. Waiting for me is worse than any dental work. I like to leap ahead. I guess you can say…waiting for me is NOT in my comfort zone. But it is wise…most people don’t have the threshold of risk. Why do you think all the financial advisors always ask you…so what is your risk tolerance…Sometimes the best action, is no action. Keep educating yourself, think of ways a new tool or tactic can be used in your organization, put together a plan…but wait for the right time to pitch it. Some of the greatest inventions never succeeded because of bad timing…
- Educate. I love to share…I guess you can say my mama taught me well. But I find if you educate your peers and leadership on trends and successful case studies, sooner or later they will bite. Plus, the outside validation only strengthens your case.
- Be persistent. Every great sales person I have ever worked with has the ability to try , try again. The odds for closing a deal are something like 1 in 10…so be persistent. If the research shows it is hot and only a few outliers are doing it and you want to capture the opportunity. Keep on pitching…sooner or later with patience, education and a good plan. You will be able to lead your colleagues, organization or company to innovative success.
- Create a no harm trial. This is the clincher. If you can prove your plan will work in a small pilot and bring results to the table…most of the time, management will approve. Just like in courtrooms, all people want you to prove it. Try your plan on 100 prospects or customers. Pick a new product that isn’t gaining traction or one that is being neglected by resources. Be thoughtful with your plan– set a goal, action plan and measures of success. Present the findings and pitch for large-scale project.
Patience is not intuitive for the innovator…otherwise he/she would never create something innovative. But take lessons from the likes of AOL, that created social networking, IM and other hot, trendy marketing tools today a long time ago. AOL had communities in the 90s…and now, do you ever hear anyone contribute the success of social networking to that company? Patience is a cornerstone to leadership. Don’t get too far ahead of the pack…no one will be able to find you.