Stop for just a moment and think about the innovations we’ve seen in the last thirty years.
Now name the first two people who come to mind when you do.
These men are in a class of leaders we call “visionaries”. If people were defined by their places in the solar system, most of us would reside right here on planet Earth. Some leaders would be innovative enough to make it to the moon. But these two leaders would be in a totally different solar system.
There are many who just exist – they stay planted firmly in one place and play it safe. They spend their days looking to see what everyone else is doing without venturing beyond the perceived safety of their borders.
There are leaders who anticipate needs and create a solution well before the needs become apparent. They are willing to invest and take risks in order to help others and become successful.
And then there are these few visionary leaders who create a need we didn’t even know existed. They think light years ahead of the rest of us.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs operated on two different platforms – both literally and metaphorically. Bill Gates decided to build an operating system that would run on almost any computer. Steve Jobs decided to build computers to run his operating system.
Both leaders had a much bigger and common goal, and that was to change the way people live, work, and communicate.
No doubt they occasionally collaborated with each other, and there was certainly a healthy amount of competition between the two. But both were successful because each was unique.
They did not simply copy each other’s work, or copy someone else’s work and just change it a little bit. They dreamed bigger than that.
Sadly, what seems to be happening as they have stepped down from leadership is what I call “copycat” leadership. It’s smaller thinking. It’s one company copying another’s ideas (or their own previous ideas) and tweaking them. It is not new development – it’s simply making small changes. Though they are still meeting with some measure of success, it is certainly not what it once was.
There was another leader recently – one known for quality of content and leadership, respected highly in his field of business. He stood out from the crowd. But then he made a mistake – he copied the “template” of someone else who was also very successful, but in a different way. Instead of being innovative in his own way, he tried to adopt another leader’s style and message. The program landed with a dull thud.
Few of us have the minds of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but we must each find our own unique voice in the world. To do this, you cannot be a copycat leader. You cannot simply tweak another’s idea and make it yours. You have to think bigger than that. Learn from others all you can, most certainly, but do not try to become them and expect to meet with equal success.
Be uniquely you. Use your gifts. Serve the world your way.