Published by Geoff Kelly, Kelly Strategic Influence
Wisdom to lead minds:
"If you do not expect it, you will not find the unexpected,
for it is hard to
find and difficult.”
Heraclitus, 500 B.C.
Why most leaders are unhappy about the uptake of their ideas
Time magazine recently reported that United Nations Secretary-General
Ban Ki-Moon has really struggled to develop his public profile, and that
he is disappointed to be known as “invisible man.”
This seems surprising, because the United Nations is the world’s peak body
‘for international relations and one of its most recognised institutions.
And Ban Ki-Moon has an enviable track record of achievement in conflict
resolution, action on climate change and positive intervention in Sudan.
Many leaders experience the same problem. It is comforting to be associated
with leading a major and well known organisation, but that alone is not
enough to cut through to those most important in adopting and supporting
Leaders new to their roles are often seduced by the assumption that because
they lead a well-known organisation, sometimes even iconic organisations
like the United Nations, that others will automatically give their ideas
attention and support. Within a few months most realise that this influence
by association is largely an illusion.
It is a stubborn illusion, and one that unnecessarily holds back many
otherwise influential leaders from achieving their full potential.
But don’t need such a position to project and convince with your ideas?
Many people believe so, despite the evidence to the contrary. There are
many leaders like Ban Ki-Moon who struggle for the impact they feel they
need to make their contribution to an area of thought. And there are many
who achieve this from virtually no platform at all.
Take Albert Einstein. On finishing his studies in physics, he could not
find a job at a university or laboratory to pursue his research interests.
To feed his family he worked for years as a clerk in the Swiss Patents
Office, checking and recording patent applications. He started with no
scientific standing among Europe’s scientific elite, and had many job
Yet he used his courage to imagine the previously unimaginable. Then he
applied his resilience and analytical skill to spend years of trial and
error calculations to prove these insights. In this process he was
vilified by almost all his peers who saw his ideas as heresy to the
long accepted Newtonian views of gravity and the basic laws of the universe.
Yet working mostly alone with only his eyes to observe and pen and paper
to record and calculate, Einstein used his brilliant imagination to render
redundant most of what his contemporary physicists knew about their science
and their world.
Jim Collins coined the phrase “Good is the enemy of great” to articulate
the complacency that prevents good organisations from becoming great.
This same principle seems to hold back many leaders from developing and
implementing really significant ideas. Too often they default to ideas
that lead only to incremental gain rather than breakthrough gain.
Or worse, they default to the wishy washy relativism that tries to
stay safe and avoid criticism.
People are yearning for leadership that expresses bold ideas, embraces
big visions that mean something to them, and expresses these ideas with
passion and authenticity.
“Reasonable” people scale their thinking to a false view of what seems
“normal.” This is mostly based on their past experience and their view
of their current circumstances. But it takes no account of the true
potential of themselves or those same current circumstances. If Einstein
had accepted such emotional boundaries to his thinking, the world
would be vastly different today.
The first step in developing thought leadership of any consequence is
to take seriously your capacity to identify and solve big and meaningful
problems and challenges. To a surprising degree this kind of thinking
mostly comes not from the corporate, government and service firm elites,
but from those less ensnared by the conventions and expectations of
This need not be so. It just means that it is sometimes harder for people
whose thinking has propelled them to a position of status and influence
in major organisations. It is more of a struggle for them to understand
that they will need a different level of thinking to jump to the next level.
Every leader, and every individual, has the potential to be a game-changer
in some area of human activity. Those who activate that potential first
make a decision to challenge the status quo, not out of rebellion but in
a wide-eyed search for better ideas and better ways of making important
To lead with ideas in any field is to first be prepared to think differently.
Most people won’t do that, so your advantage is greater if you decide to be
one of those who do.
Make that decision today, tomorrow and every day onwards.
More next month...
Geoff Kelly works with leaders who are frustrated that others don't fully support their ideas and strategies. He mainly works with corporate leaders around the world, but also leaders in Government and Not for Profit. He is also a popular speaker on this and related subjects. See www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au, email [email protected] or call +613 9678 9218 for more information
© 2009 Geoff Kelly All rights reserved.
You are free to use material from the Leading Minds eZine in whole or in part, as long as you include complete attribution, including live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear. The attribution should read: "By Geoff Kelly of Kelly Strategic Influence. Please visit Geoff's web site at www.kellystrategicinfluence.com.au for additional articles and resources on earning support for your ideas and strategies." (Make sure the link is live if placed in an eZine or in a web site.)