Real Leaders

The Only Reason to Work

Lately I’ve been helping several companies reinvent themselves for growth. The challenge is always the same… how do you create a new unique value proposition… one that really creates value? One that is so potent and preferred that customers can’t live without it. And importantly, one that’s worth talking about in our social media saturated world. The problem I find… is that it’s so difficult for competitive, carnivorous leaders to empathize with real-life customers.

The conversation quickly turns into an opportunity and threat analysis. Leaders who seem to have brains for numbers quickly dive into profit margin analytics and industry growth trends. I know, it’s all important stuff… all good stuff to know… but it’s creative suicide. High-growth innovation needs blood and oxygen, while bloodless analysis of what everybody else is doing and how customers used to behave freezes brains in tired thinking patterns. I guess that’s why I get a call. But I have no interest in course corrections and incremental innovation.

What I am after is disruptive leadership.

My soul-felt belief is that the only reason to work is to make people’s lives better. We all need to make money for ourselves and the people we love so they can be safe, secure, educated and able to care for themselves. That’s our responsibility. Now our opportunity, that’s something more.

Our opportunity is to invest our energy, our intelligence, and our guts into making the world better because we are living in it.

In my experience leaders who recognize this opportunity are the disruptors, the revolutionaries, the magicians who change things for the better. It’s not easy to unlock the imprisoned minds of business school trained leaders so they are free to think about creating Grade-A Genuine-Better-World-Value. I literally have to trap them in a room and bombard them with a series of stories and new models to get them to ask the question… “How much good can we do?”

That’s my starting point for positive innovation because it disengages the prefrontal cortex from fear and redirects our brains to imagining new ways to help people live better lives.

Just today my friend Steve Clayback sent me a powerful quote by John Wesley.

It struck me so hard that I’m going to use it to open my strategy sessions.

I’m going to tattoo it on my mental muscles. It’s a career changing, life-changing challenge:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

If this were the mission statement of truly competent leaders, how might the world change? It’s enough to make you want to be a competent leader. [Note to women] Your brain wiring is more naturally connected to creating value for others because you feel what others feel. It’s called emotional empathy.

You will most effectively influence male leaders by connecting ‘good’ with ‘gain.’ It’s harder for men to sustain their attention on good as the driver of gain. Use data and business arguments to promote the logic of values and to inspire innovation that improves customer’s lives.

Resist your urge to say it’s the right thing to do…prove it’s the smart thing to do.


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