10 Ways To Be A Stand-Out Leader

It’s not good enough these days to be a great leader, you have to be a stand-out leader.

The challenges facing organizations these days are horrendous. Uncertainty, unpredictability, and randomness all underscore the storm forces that threaten to destroy them.

To thrive and survive the maelstrom requires more than greatness from the individuals entrusted to lead in this type of world.

“Great” doesn’t cut it.

We need leaders that are stand-outs; people who cannot be compared to others because their distinctiveness defies any standard.

Here are 10 practical and proven attributes of the stand-out leader that I have discovered:

The stand-out leader:

  1. Creates discontinuity in the organization to create opportunities for competitive advantage and growth. They are not content with managing the momentum of the business. They cause interventions that force people to challenge the status quo and think differently. They don’t wait for a reason to change; they “force” change and make it integral to the organization’s DNA.
  1. Does not tolerate sameness. They ask “how can we be different?” rather than “how can we copy the best in class?” And they accordingly change the conversation throughout the organization. Products, customer processes, strategic alliances, new technology are all created to move out of the competitive herd.

They seek ultimate uniqueness for the organization by creating their “only” statement: “We are the only ones that…”

  1. Loves uncertainty and communicates it to all employees. They recognize that certainty is reserved for the naive and that it is an exceedingly risky proposition. Believing that things will settle down raises unrealistic expectations and places everyone at risk.
  1. Preaches imperfection and encourages it. They understand that perfection doesn’t exist in business and while people covet it, they are standing still. Energies are directed to doing a lot of imperfect stuff as the way to establish and maintain market leadership.
  1. Learns voraciously and continuously. They totally get that what got them here won’t get them to where they need to go. Their value to the organization is based on the new stuff they learn and apply.
  1. Micro-manages the customer moment. They are customer “addicts” and understand that paying attention to the smallest detail is essential to delivering a memorable customer experience. They are actively engaged with designing what customer interactions look like and walk around the workplace coaching and mentoring to ensure that moments are delivered to ‘wow’ customers.
  1. Serves people not commands them to action. They ask “how can I help you?” rather than chirp “do this.” Stand-out leaders bash internal barriers to progress and make it easier for people to get their jobs done. They subordinate themselves to the frontline and don’t delegate the job of improving performance where customer meets company.
  1. Tells amazing stories. They are the consummate story-teller, breathing life into the organization’s strategy by providing examples of successful execution. Their stories are rich with visual language intended to not only excite people on the strategic journey they are on, but also to teach the behaviors expected of each person.
  1. Makes it clear what each person has to do to play an integral role in executing the organization’s strategy. They constantly and passionately communicate the organization’s vision and strategy to capture the hearts as well as the minds of people. They use face-to-face venues to give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and clarify where the company is headed.
  1. Is obsessed with execution. They understand that execution equals strategy and that flawlessly executing a “just about right” plan beats a “perfect” plan that can’t be implemented. A leader focused on execution tries their best to anticipate future trends and the changes likely to effect their organization, but they excel at responding to the random and the unexpected. They are a master of “Plan B.” They constantly follow up and monitor the execution of the company’s strategy and take corrective action to get it back on track.

The stand-out leader is not “great;” they are unforgettable, distinctive, outlandish, memorable, mind-blowing and contrarian.

And stand-outs are rare: Steve jobs, Tony Hsieh, Walt Disney, Jerry Garcia and Richard Branson are a few that I would tag.

Do yourself a huge favor. Acknowledge what you need to be great, but set your sights higher to be a stand-out leader. Organizations need you to ‘take their breath away.’

Start now.

Ponder no longer.

Photo Credit: Graphik Boutique via Compfight cc

Stand-out Leaders Create Greatness

Have you ever wondered how stand-out leaders create, not just successful futures for their organizations, but breakthrough and amazing futures?

Here’s how.

Stand-out leaders don’t participate in the bottoms-up leadership world.

Why not?

Because the bottoms-up world places emphasis on management developing proposals and gaining approval before moving forward. For example, putting a proposition to the leader, which typically involves a brief assessment of a few potential alternatives and the selection of the best course of action to take. The course of action the leader then chooses often the one providing the highest potential net benefit to the organization at least on paper.

We all know the difference between what the business case predicts as a benefit to and what is realized. Rarely do the actual benefits mirror what was proposed if the comparison is made at all. What value does the leader provide in such a process? At best they question the business case assumptions, debate the customer value proposition and give their royal assent.

The results of this approach are imprecise incremental gains. If we add a product to a product portfolio, revenue increases and if costs come in on target margins are enhanced. If we acquire another organization with its customer base and people skills and competencies, the deal has a certain accretive value assuming an effective strategy to integrate the new entity.

This process drives most organizations and is their growth engine. Choose the option that has the best paper benefit and go with it. Nothing wrong with this approach but it doesn’t work if leaders are looking for breakthrough performance; to take their organization to the next level.

Breakthrough performance comes from a top-down perspective of leadership. It doesn’t come from choosing among the various paths to follow particularly when the implied benefits are imprecise.

Breakthroughs come from creating a future that you and only you own. Creating a new box to play in. Colouring outside the lines to form art that has your signature alone. Mind blowing performance is the result of creation not choice.

Become a standout leader. Create a completely different set of customer solutions rather than incrementing the current product line. Create a completely new set of competencies required to do something completely different rather than annexing strengths of another organization that you bolt on to yours.

As a leader, the next time you are asked to choose, don’t. Ask for the “antimatter” choice. Ask for “the impossible”; the unheard of; the unconventional. Ask for the choice that will place you 180 degrees out of phase with everyone else in your marketplace.

Talk about that. Debate that. Do a cost-benefit analysis on that.

Ask not how can we extend our business and grow, but how can we replace our business with a new version that is more relevant to what customers desire and one that will better survive the vagaries of the future.

Unless your chosen path broaches the unknown, you are on an incremental growth curve. Extending the present business incrementally into a different and more volatile future is not only risky, it could be deadly.

photo credit: Stand Out from The Crowd  via photopin (license)