The 3 things great leaders do to drive an innovative culture

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Studies reveal that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own and team’s purpose. Even fewer can distil their purpose into an outcome-focused, action-oriented statement.

Some leaders are able to clearly articulate their organization’s mission: Think of Google’s “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” or Apple’s “Make a dent in the universe,” or Charles Schwab’s “A relentless ally for the individual investor.” But when asked to describe their purpose, they typically fall back on something generic and nebulous: “Help others excel.” “build business success.” “Empower my team.”

Just as problematic, hardly any of them have a clear plan for translating purpose into action. As a result, they limit their aspirations and often fail to achieve their most ambitious goals.

TomorrowToday has researched what great leaders do to deliver remarkable results and have a meaningful impact on their organisation and society. As it turns out there is a pattern all the great leaders do three things. What we’ve done is codified these three things and, it is probably the simplest model since Simon Sinek’s golden circle. We call it the 3i’s

1) Impact: Great leaders all begin with the question: “is there a better way?” Put a slightly different spin on this question and get your team to examine: “This sucks! Is there a better way?” The question, “This sucks! Is there a better way?” has propelled fortunes, crafted successful careers and disrupted industries. For example:

  • Nights of darkness suck! So, Thomas Edison gave us lightbulbs.
  • Germs suck! So, Fleming gave us penicillin.
  • Walking, when birds fly, sucks! So, the Wright brothers gave us wings.
  • Automobiles for only the very wealthiest sucks! So, Ford gave us the production line and the liveable wage.
  • Inequality sucks! So, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela gave us equal rights.
  • Cancer sucks! So, Marie Curie gave us radiology and X-ray machines.

Here’s the thing. The great women and men who shaped history, began with the question: “This sucks, can it be made better!” When passion, commitment and energy is expended towards solutions that tackle what sucks most, innovations emerge which no one could have imagined.

Exploring what are the things that “suck” most for your customers, colleagues and community is the best place to start because once you identify what sucks most in the world you touch and influence, you can drive the greatest most meaningful impact.

2. Impossible: The next task is to challenge the prevailing conventional wisdom. Ask, where can breakthrough technology and innovative thinking break new ground? For example, Henry Ford famously doubled the wage bill of his labour force overnight. Shareholders were up in arms claiming he was a madman bent on bankrupting his company. Ford held fast to his crazy unconventional idea. Within a year productivity had surged, the most talented workers wanted to work at Ford, and profits doubled. Ford often said that doubling wages was the best cost-cutting exercise he ever undertook. Today Ford is also credited with creating the American middle-class, talk about having an impact by doing something most people would consider impossible!

3.Inspiration: A few years ago, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made a ground-breaking discovery. He studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. He found that they seemed normal, but they all had something in common, they couldn’t make decisions. This finding has enormous implications. People who believe they can win their pitch using only business cases and ROI often fail to influence and deliver meaningful change.

What the leaders can and must do, however, is tap into their stakeholders’ emotions by creating an inspirational destination that brings with it discovery, decision, action and passion.

This is where the third and most important part of the 3i model, the inspirational (outcome-focused) destination is so powerful. When JFK launched the space race, he didn’t sit around talking about needing the best, most efficient and effective rockets to beat the Russians. No, he set people’s souls ablaze with visions of exploring distant galaxies. What JFK set out to achieve, his inspirational destination was crystal clear.

Likewise, Nelson Mandela sold the world the ideal of a free and democratic South Africa. Steve Jobs sold the world the dream of a magical iPad.

Now, of course, we are not Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs or JFK and most of us do not have their grand stages. However, we all have a circle of influence, the world we touch and inspire. Like JFK, you too can embark on a quest or moonshot to deliver impact and inspiration.

Reflect back on what you’ve just read and ask yourself these three questions

  • What are the big problems in my world of influence?
  • How can I use breakthrough thinking or technology to challenge conventional wisdom and achieve what people consider impossible?
  • What is my moonshot, articulated it as an inspirational outcome focused destination?

I believe in challenging people to use the power of business as a force for good. The world’s greatest problems also represent the best opportunities, we just have to unlearn, relearn, think and act big to create a remarkable future. I’d love to connect with you to discuss how we can work together.


In everything Dean does, he believes in challenging people to use the power of business as a force for good. The world’s greatest problems also represent the best opportunities, we just have to unlearn, relearn, think and act big to create a remarkable future. 

Dean is on a quest to inspire audiences mobilising them to use exponential technology, forge innovative solutions and deliver 10x the impact. Chat to us to book Dean or one of the TomorrowToday team.

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