You don’t become a leader by doing what everybody else does. When people you trust come to you with outside-the-box ideas to accomplish bold goals or address problems you may not have known you had, don’t let the well-worn path of familiarity keep you from reaching new heights.
For example, I was recently working with a large, prestigious university, the administration of which was just as involved, as you might expect. Faculty, staff, administrators and everyone had a lot on their plate. However, when my team told them their big opportunity for change, both in terms of improving student perception of the university and in terms of driving cost savings, was a mailroom overhaul, they were a little skeptical. The fact was, student package volume had been increasing 20 percent annually, meaning the mailroom was a huge part of the student experience, and it was only getting bigger. By working together and with some upfront investment, we were able to drop wait times during peak times from 40-plus minutes to less than 3. That kind of difference doesn’t go unnoticed.
While these kinds of investments can be scary and following through on them can be incredibly stressful, they are worth it. Innovation, by definition, means trying things that haven’t been tried. Prepare to meet resistance and to feel uncomfortable, but have confidence in your vision and push through. Leaders lead from the front of the pack, not the middle.