Subscribe to Inc. magazine
LEAD

'Copying Is How We Learn': The Evolution of Leadership

Innovation is not about something-out-of-nothing creation; it's about novel combinations of existing stuff. Should your leadership style be any different?
Advertisement

“The people at my organization would describe my leadership style as a combination of ____________ mixed with _____________.”

An innocuous little ice breaker that leads off most Build live events, this question is like the final pages of James Patterson novel -; it reveals a hell of a lot very quickly. When a total stranger proclaims herself a mash-up of Jon Stewart and Martha Stewart, or a hybrid of John Wooden and John F. Kennedy, well it’s not difficult to conjure an immediate impression of working with her every day. (The above we’re mostly OK with, but that Julius Caesar + Steve Jobs guy we’re not inviting back.)

What’s perhaps most interesting about this exercise, however, is the fact that everyone eagerly participates. Not one CEO has said, “Nope. Sorry, guys. My leadership style is not like anyone else’s -; ever.”

Some experts may attribute that to the peer pressure or compulsive rule-following at a live event, but Kirby Ferguson is not one of them. The creator of a four-part video series titled “Everything Is a Remix”, Ferguson uses popular-culture references galore to make the point that innovation is not about something-out-of-nothing creation; it’s about creative combination. He notes that 74 of the 100 highest grossing films of the last decade are either sequels, remakes, or adaptations of existing work. He even trods on hallowed ground to remark that “Star Wars endures as a work of impressive imagination, but many of its individual components are as recognizable as the samples in a remix.”

“George Lucas collected materials. He combined them. He transformed them,” Ferguson says. “Without the films that preceded it, there could be no ‘Star Wars.’ Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remake of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.”

If, then, every new thing is a mish-mash of favorite things not so new, then it stands to reason that each business leader reading this article is a hybrid of CEOs, coaches, professors, and even parents who came before. More to the point, if your leadership style is the engine that drives your company’s growth strategy, then shouldn’t it mimic the styles of successful leaders who have driven similar growth in the past? Shouldn’t it remix the best?

And, if so, who’s on your mix tape?

This article was originally published at The Build Network.

Last updated: Jan 21, 2014




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: