Four Key Leadership Concepts from Seth Godin’s Book ‘Poke the Box’

I can confidently say that the best 100 pennies I’ve spent in my entire life was the Kindle purchase of Seth Godin’s manifesto about starting…Poke the Box.

For anyone who has aspirations to change the world (no matter how big or small the change may be), reading a manifesto about starting is just the motivation you need to get those ideas out of your head and made into a reality.

As a matter of fact this blog post should have been done over 30 days ago when I finished the book but I was so motivated after reading the final page, and of course sharing the fact that I finished it on twitter and facebook (at the suggestion and automation from my Kindle…a smart valued added marketing scheme), I couldn’t help but to spend every free moment working on several website projects that have been in my head for months.

I must say this is the first time a simple book has cranked me up enough to pull multiple all nighters to write specifications and build prototypes…like a double shot of espresso followed by a Red Bull…and the book is surely one that keeps on giving as the stream of motivating emails every couple days from the Domino Project keep reminding me to not just be a strong starter, but a strong finisher as well.

But enough about me, the purpose of this post is to share the four key leadership concepts I took away from Seth Godin that all leaders should consider as they grow into better leaders:

1. Humans need a map

“Dr. Jan Souman, of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, studied what happens to us when we have no map, no compass, no way to determine landmarks. I’m not talking about a metaphor—he researched what happens to people lost in the woods or stumbling around the Sahara, with no north star, no setting sun to guide them. It turns out we walk in circles. Try as we might to walk in a straight line, to get out of the forest or the desert, we end up back where we started. ”

“Human nature is to need a map. If you’re brave enough to draw one, people will follow.”

My Leadership Takeaway:

So it goes without saying that your job as a leader is to create a map. However, your map is just the start…I believe there are at least two other things you must do to support your map when leading people. 1) Help your team create their individual maps 2) Then connect your map to their map by giving each individual a compelling reason to follow your map.

2. Complacency killed the cat

“Do get so busy harvesting, that you have no time for planting”

“Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution points out that almost all real job growth occurs in the first five years after a company’s founding…Once a company hits stability, they usually start replacing workers, not inventing new jobs.”

“Think about the newer organizations, the ones that are growing and making an impact. Think about Apple, Google, director James Cameron’s team, Ideo, Pixar, and Electronic Arts”

My Leadership Takeaway:

I believe Leadership is more than leading your team in achieving the goals that are right in front of you, it’s about finding new goals for your team to achieve as well..goals that stretch your capacity and disrupt. Complacency in leadership is a fast way to hand your top talent over to the competition on a silver platter.

3. Don’t trade innovation for compliance

“They could trust workers to use their best judgment, to figure things out, to make things better, or they could work to eliminate individual initiative and instead trade the upside of improvement for the certainty of compliance. You guessed it—many of them chose compliance. The downside of this choice is now becoming obvious. Factories of all kinds are finding themselves stuck, unable not only to innovate but even to improve.”

“You can’t grow by becoming even more predictable and ordinary. You might have a dependable and predictable and cheap product, but if the market wants something better, you’ll be stuck playing catch-up.”

My Leadership Takeaway:

Processes, operating procedures, rules and regulations are very valuable. But leaders can’t let the tail wag the dog. The role of a leader is to not only put processes and rules in place, but also make sure there are processes and rules that exits to help your team intelligently break the processes and rules when it makes sense without fear of punishment and bureaucratic overload.

4. When all else fails, innovation is the right answer

“If there’s no clear right answer, perhaps the thing you ought to do is something new. Something new is often the right path when the world is complicated.”

“Change is powerful, but change always comes with failure as its partner. ‘This might not work’ isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you should seek out.”

My Leadership Takeaway:

In my experience, one of the key skills the separates good leaders from great leaders is the ability to facilitate a decision to a complex problem among a group of opinionated and strong personalities while not alienating those on the opposite side of the decision. These two quotes are ones to keep in your back pocket as a mantra to not only create a tie breaker but also to remind your team of the value of trying something new.