“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” so says John C. Maxwell, a leadership guru. Be it as it may, there are leaders, and there are Leaders. In this article, I will not be talking about irrefutable laws of leadership, or traits that you need to be a leader, but narrowing it to 5 must-have skills that will lead you to organic growth. So strap on your thinking caps because this is the first time we actually talk about leadership in this forum…(but it won’t be the last!)
Finding white space
This first skill is essential for the growth leader. If he is unable to spot white space within the noise in the market, there is no way he can lead the organisation to new growth prospects. White space are the cracks within a market that allow a niche to develop. Due to the nature of niches, they are not very large. However, they can be very profitable. White space can come from ignored market segments, (like housewives weaving baskets for companies in Bangladesh), to unquestioned assumptions (like why can’t bags have wheels?) Each of these white space questions have gone on to become major products for those who dared to ask and answer them.
Growth Leadership Skill #1: Look at different ways of doing things and ask how they can be applied differently
Most people are unable to see into the future very well and the growth leader must be able to build a compelling picture of it. They have to conjure up images in the mind of their people that stirs their emotion and helps them fall in line. This function is almost always that of the leader and there is no way to abdicate it. If the leader is unable to build that, he will not be able to rally the resources on the back of a whim or a prayer.
Growth Leadership Skill #2: Communicate with emotion and conviction, and build a compelling picture of the future!
Influence people to collaborate despite themselves
A growth leader does not use formal authority to bring people together because they are dealing with the future and many people are unable to grasp that. Most people need to be lulled into confidence by the use of data, and the growth leader knows he has neither data nor precedence in the organic growth arena. He therefore cannot dictate that one thing be done or another. Instead, he would have to work on his network and influence them to come on board, sometimes on the back of his confidence and his word. Yet without this ability, nothing can happen and the growth initiative fails.
Growth Leadership Skill #3: Develop an informal network of collaborators who will go the distance because of the leader and his vision
Be willing to call the baby ugly
As no one actually knows what is going to happen in the future, all attempts at organic growth are really stabs in the dark on an experimental track. As such, a growth leader will need to shape the on-going experiment, being willing to call the baby ugly and discard the current notion. Only when the leader is willing to accept “failure” and not simply stick on with the growth experiment due to ego and pride, will he be able to navigate the uncertainty of the future, and position a solution for the future.
Growth Leadership Skill #4: Be willing to accept “failure” and move on to the next hypothesis. Fail fast, and fail cheap.
Give others the credit
A growth leader never does anything for himself and does not like to take credit for himself. He knows that the key to organic growth success is the sustainability of the idea, and the ability to pivot when change is required. This adaptable behaviour can only be sustained if the people working with him are able to sustain it. The best and fastest way of sustaining such behaviour is in giving them as much credit for the new idea as possible, even if it didn’t come from them. Attributing a great idea to the people who will be carrying it out gives them the courage and confidence to stand up for it when it comes under scrutiny by the rest. If there is no one except the growth leader fighting for a new and novel idea, it will probably not move ahead.
Growth Leadership #5: Attribute new ideas to people who will be driving the growth for you, even if they didn’t totally come up with the idea.
Organic growth is never easy and to hope that a nascent thought can survive the vagaries of certainty-thinking would be foolhardy. Instead, it needs to be managed and coaxed along the way, and growth-minded people are needed to make it happen. As such, growth leaders need to develop these five skills to develop the people who will work to make the idea take root and grow. These are the five must-have skills of the Growth Leader!