Leaders inspire people to do amazing things—the type of things that their followers would not do on their own. With leadership, a vision and competitive advantage becomes reality. The more change an organization is facing, the greater the need for leaders. The more flexible a firm must be to survive in its environment, the greater the need for leaders. Given that today’s environment is characterized by frequent change, leadership is more important than ever before.
Unconventional leaders go a step further. They lead their companies to repeatedly create things that people love, but no one expected, especially their competition. Unconventional leaders are fanatical about the products and services they provide rather than profit, yet they tend to lead the most profitable firms in their industries. They create organizations built on innovation, flexibility, and risk-taking, which redefines their industries and sometimes the way people live. Through their companies, they often lead other firms in terms of technology, customer service, etc. Unconventional leaders beat the competition on a regular basis.
Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are prime examples of unconventional leaders. They do not look like typical business leaders, and their leadership style is anything but conventional. In fact, their backgrounds are both contrary to what most people would expect of such successful corporate leaders. They both dropped out of college and have no formal management training. Despite this, or maybe because of this, they have unconventional leadership styles that have led to the creation of unconventional firms. In fact, the people with the most education and experience are often the most conventional thinkers.
Unconventional leaders are unconventional thinkers, but what does that mean exactly? Unconventional thinkers stand out compared with most people. Their ideas are an amalgamation of ideas from a wide range of areas. They often use bits and pieces of very simple concepts in unique combinations to create new solutions to new or old problems. Their unique thinking is often reflected in their eclectic mix of interests and people with whom they form relationships. They like information and ideas, and often focus on things that most people overlook. Unconventional people like to think about things and understand them fully. To illustrate further, below is a comparison of conventional and unconventional thinkers.
Although it might not be an easy change, conventional thinkers can become more unconventional in their thinking. Everyone is born an unconventional thinker. Just observe very young children, and you can see the amazing creativity they have. Unfortunately, as kids get older, they are taught to think like everyone else in their family, at school, etc. They learn to become conventional thinkers. However, if this can be learned, it can be unlearned. You might not become as unconventional and innovative as Steve Jobs, but you can become far more unconventional in your thinking. Therefore, you can become a more unconventional leader. Below are some ideas that you can use to start on that path.
Doing the above activities is easier if they are done with other people, so look for groups that can you can join or create to help you become more unconventional. While changing is not easy, becoming an unconventional leader has the potential to help you create significant competitive advantage based on innovation, flexibility, and risk-taking.