If your leadership goals include innovation, distinctiveness, and achieving groundbreaking outcomes, there are few better examples than Nobel laureates. These are thinkers that endured untold obstacles to differentiate themselves from some of the smartest people on the planet. And the techniques they employ to rise to the top hold lessons that every leader should learn.
Lesson #1: Don’t Let Tunnel Vision Blind You
Sir Andre Geim, Regius Professor and Royal Society Research Professor at The University of Manchester, won the Nobel Prize for discovering graphene, the one-atom-thick wonder material derived from graphite (and a whole class of similar materials).
Many career-focused achievers believe that a laser focus on one issue or career path determines success. Put your nose to the grindstone, they think; focus without distraction, and you’ll get to the top. But Dr. Geim’s career is a glaring exception to that approach.
Much of his success stems from lateral thinking. He told me, “Because of my rather diverse background and being in different scientific environments, I like to jump from subject to subject. When you do such jumps, you don’t get stuck on one track of thinking. And you’re able to use the knowledge from other areas; it starts to come naturally. And this background knowledge sometimes makes the whole difference.”
Far too many leaders don’t allow their employees to think laterally. A Leadership IQ study, for example, found that only 20% of managers always encourage their employees to innovate, experiment and play with new ideas. Of course, leaders have specific goals that have to be achieved, and those goals do require focus. But giving your employees a bit of autonomy to explore new ideas could not only spark a major breakthrough, but it could also be the key to employee retention and engagement.
Relatedly, the leadership style that employees most want to work for is called the Idealist style, and it’s characterized by extensive learning and growth. Idealists are high-energy achievers who believe in the positive potential of everyone around them; they want to learn and grow, and they want everyone else on the team to do the same. MORE
Photo by August de Richelieu