Mustering the Power to Do Something Different

Jan 14, 2020

Today’s business world has become extremely competitive, yet large and small businesses alike find it easy to stick with familiar ideas, procedures, and ways of doing business. Inertia kicks in. We follow unwritten rules or guidelines in our industry or sector because “that is the way that things have always been done.” And, that is why mustering the power to do something different is so vital to your personal growth.

As leaders, I believe it is easy to succumb to these narratives. But by doing so, we are settling on a business future that is merely fine. 

Most of us aren’t satisfied with fine, however. We want a real sense of purpose.

We want our businesses and careers to be stellar. Yet it is easy for psychological pressures to keep us in a place full of thoughts like “I wish I had taken that risk” or “Wouldn’t it have been cool if we executed on that crazy idea.” 

Ultimately, we must find the power to do something different. 

To learn more about mustering this power of transformational leadership, spoke with Jim McKelvey, the co-founder of Square and the founder of a new company called Invisibly. Jim has achieved massive success as a transformational leader, so I wanted to get a better sense of how all of us can tap into that same power.

Transformational Leadership and Having a Sense of Purpose: Some Insights and Advice

In our discussion, Jim explained that having a sense of purpose is someone doing something that hasn’t been done before. He or she is laser-focused on problem-solving or disrupting things that need disrupting. Ultimately, they can go out and create meaningful, substantial change in the world—even if no one has ever done it before. 

That is precisely what he did when he created Square. He thought of a new business model and a new way to accept credit card payments. In the same way, he is now disrupting the publication industry with Invisibly and challenging long-standing norms. 

Some of these changes can even be societal. Nothing is stopping transformational leaders who want to accomplish their business goals and help make the world a better place.

TOMS Shoes Created a Sense of Purpose by Doing Something Differently

One great example of this is the story of Blake Mycoskie and TOMS Shoes. Blake’s story is well-known in the entrepreneurial and startup communities. As he was traveling through Argentina in 2006, Blake witnessed the hardships that children experienced without a pair of shoes. Unlike many other people, however, Blake decided to do something about it. 

His ultimate creation was TOMS Shoes, which is a sustainable for-profit business that is not reliant on donations. Most notably, Blake and TOMS pioneered the infamous One For One model, which helps a person in need with every sale of TOMS Shoes. The idea has been so impactful that other companies have incorporated the One For One model in their businesses. 

Transformational leadership can result in both profits and societal impact. So why isn’t everyone a transformational leader?

A large part of it has to do with human psychology. As humans, we are inherently susceptible to herding. Even though we aren’t in physical danger, we are psychologically biased toward sticking with the crowd—also, if we have some cool idea for a substantially different product or service that could disrupt our industries. These psychological biases make it much more difficult for us to become transformational leaders, regardless of our experience level or intelligence.

I find that transformational leaders can recognize these psychological pressures, yet choose to put them to the side to reach their goals. This doesn’t mean that transformational leadership is without failure. As Jim says, temporary failure is inevitable when transformational leaders are trying to do more. Nevertheless, they stay laser-focused on making a profit and a real difference in the world.

Just look at Patagonia. Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia in 1973 and is known for selling high-quality outdoor clothing. While Yvon experienced some ups and downs in scaling his company, his transformational leadership resulted in a company that makes money while staying true to its environmental ethics. For instance, Patagonia uses environmentally-friendly fabrics in all of its clothing and commits one percent of its total sales to environmental groups.

The Power to Do Something Different 

Transformational leaders have the core power of being able to do something different. Yes, they place a high priority on inspiring their team to accomplish its business goals. Yet transformational leaders go one step further. 

I believe transformational leaders recognize that it is their duty and obligation to use their resources to make a positive difference in the world. Whether it is pioneering a new business model or having the courage to donate one percent of total sales to certain activist groups, transformational leaders are willing to take a stand in the boardroom and our world. No matter the naysayers, criticism, or even temporary failures, they keep going, making success virtually inevitable. 

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