Don’t Put Leadership in a Box

October 26, 2022

Don’t Put Leadership in a Box

“Going just a little beyond conventional wisdom isn’t enough to produce significant innovation; we must go further.” — Rosabeth Moss Kanter

We’ve all been told to think “outside the box” in order to spark innovation and grow. The box is ourselves–we are limited by our beliefs, our lived experiences, and the things we know at the moment. And sometimes we get too confined to ourselves.

It is important to be self-aware in order to be an effective leader, but we have to do more than just rely on what we know and believe in. In order to keep growing, we need to constantly stretch ourselves and step outside of our comfort zones and boxes. Otherwise, we stifle our growth, as well as the potential of those we lead.

If we want our people to keep on improving and moving on to new heights, it has to start with us. We need to lead by example and show them how we work on our skills continuously to lead them better.

Our boxes serve as our structures. All of us need some form of structure to be efficient. If you are still working on your box, that is alright. We are all at different stages of our journeys. But if you are currently at the stage where you want to move forward to what is next, you will be stretched beyond the box, and even, as Kanter says, beyond the building.

Constantly look at how you can improve yourself and your team. Take the time to look outside of yourself and your organization into the vast world out there and think, “What else can I and my team do that will bring a positive change to the world?”

Humans like formulas. For the longest time, leadership relied on formulas that “work” because we wanted to replicate their success and achievements. However, formulas don’t always work in every context and situation, and they come with invisible risks. The people who came up with that formula underwent failures specific to their situation that you might not be aware of, and might not apply to your context.

Learning from the successes and failures of others is great wisdom, but what matters more is how you can apply what you learned to your business’s current situation.

Replicating results is important too. But doing the same things while expecting growth and different results is ridiculous. Doing something different, outside of the formulas we know, can be scary—There will always be the thought of “What if I fail?”

But as I’ve told myself, and many others before, failing is fine, as long as you fail forward. Being afraid to try something new prevents us from discovering new things and exploring new possibilities.

The tried and tested road might take you somewhere, but it will only take you where others have been, at best. It doesn’t necessarily take you where you want to go.

If you are pursuing your own mission, you need to make your own formula. It takes courage to step beyond what is “proven to work” and experiment on “what could work.” But growth only happens outside the box. So don’t box yourself and your team in. Keep stretching yourself so you can lead others better.

Thanks for reading A Brilliant Tribe.