A well-known executive has advised me that the best way to succeed at work is to keep my head down, put in extra hours, take things slowly, and pace myself to avoid becoming over ambitious or overzealous. I was recommended to work through traditional ranks and demonstrate my talents and values through years of dedication to a school or company. Even though this recommendation has merit, I have decided not to follow the advice to its fullest intension. I do crave professional stability but realize that I can create my own structure through creative hard work. Today’s culture is different from previous working cultures; taking risks, standing out, and acting quickly to restructure business as usual, are qualities of successful leaders.
The fast paced, digital environment of 2012 challenges everything traditional. Slowly working through traditional ranks while keeping one’s head down has been replaced with a new professional culture: the race for creative innovation. As digital citizens, we have instant knowledge, integrated communication, and international collaboration at our fingertips. We have the ability to rebuild or reinvent anything we can imagine. So why take things slowly?! Instead of waiting for a job opening, we can create a new career, position, program, service, or product. Greatness can happen quickly; but it must begin by evaluating conventional norms. Instead of traditional working environments, how can you succeed by combining creativity, goal setting, and hard work?
You see, true leaders create their own paths and leave behind a distinctive legacy for others to follow. Creative leaders take big risks and receive big rewards. How are you different from everyone around you and how can you use those skills for your benefit? Cultural uniformity can hold you back from greatness. Challenge yourself today by considering how you can achieve your goals in ways that haven’t been tried before. Regardless of your profession, you can benefit by challenging current norms and exploring new and creative methods to achieve your goals. Michael McKinney shares in Hacking the Creative Process that everyone uses creativity in their job. Creativity is used every day in problem solving, working with other people, developing programs, schedules, or activities. McKinney agrees that working harder is not always the answer; be creative and structure your creativity to get the most out of your ideas. Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice states, “When you establish effective boundaries, you are focusing your creative energy rather than allowing it to run rampant.” I believe that promotion and success in our current working culture is directly correlated with quick action and creativity.
Those who think outside of the “box” get ahead; achieving goals through original and creative strategies. One example of this includes a previous student of mine. He wanted to make more money and had enjoyed fashion. After giving himself permission to be a creative leader, he begin an online business selling t-shirts while attending college part-time. Guess what? It worked! His idea was original and creative. In the beginning, his friends thought he was crazy for trying something so original and risky but they soon were asking for jobs and internships. He became a self-made successful leader because he challenged his cultural norm and dared to be different. He said that the trick was dedicating a small amount of time each day to his idea. The truth is, you can create our own success at your own pace. By giving yourself permission to be successful, you will become a better leader on a unique path to success.
Know this, you are GREAT! You have permission to dream big, creative, and differently than those around you. Traditional processes and professional norms can work but think how you can maximize your leadership and success by being different, creative, and providing a new service or need. If you can envision a goal, you can achieve it. Be bold, take risks, create your own structure and creative practices; these skills will produce greatness.