What's my big idea?

A big enough reason

Motivation is nothing more than having a big enough reason.

The best leaders have a clear and compelling idea of how they are going to make a difference. They create a future that is different and better.

What's your big idea? How do you communicate it?

Guiding Question

  • How are you going to make a difference?

Why is it important to have a big idea?

Activity 1: Reading and reflection

  • Read the following extracts from Jo Owen's book 'How to Lead' (2015, Pearson) in which he speaks of the importance of knowing how you, as a leader, are going to make a difference.
  • As you read consider which words / phrases challenge you.

The Big Idea

Research on leadership ... has shown that there is a consistent set of actions that leaders have to follow at all levels of the organisation. This can be summarised as IPA: Idea, People, Action. The best leaders have a clear of how they are going to make a difference; they assemble a great team to make the difference; and then they make it happen....besides the right skills and actions the best leaders need one more vital ingredient to succeed: the right mind-set. Put simply, the best leaders act differently from the rest because they think differently.

You have to create a legacy for the future. Think about your position. What will be different in one or two years' time as a result of your leadership?

Behind every great business of any size there is normally a great, and very simple, idea. These businesses become leaders in their fields by relentlessly pursuing just one idea. They are mind-numbingly simple and obvious statements. For instance:

  • Google: paid search
  • Facebook: connecting friends
  • Shazam: identifying the music you are listening to
  • Rolls-Royce automobiles: luxury motoring
  • Toyota: quality as reliability
  • Rynair: the low-cost airline
  • NASA: first man on the moon
  • Lidl: low-cost retailing through scale and restricted choice.

Why have a big idea? You need a compelling idea of the future for four reasons:

  1. To set your agenda and take control of the direction your organisation is going in
  2. To create a sense of priorities: what you will and will not do
  3. To give hope and purpose - setting the direction for the team
  4. To demonstrate that you are making a difference.

Crafting your idea: start by imagining your future perfect. How do you want your team, your world, your role to look in 3-5 years' time? Describe your future perfect in as much detail as possible: what will you be doing, what your team will look like, what you will have achieved and what will be different? Then start with the end in mind and work backwards. This future perfect is your lodestar, which tells you what your priorities should be, where you should focus and what you should do less of.

Testing your idea: the acronym RUSSIA gives you a simple way of testing the power of your idea:

  • Relevant: Is your vision relevant to your needs?
  • Unique: Could you apply your vision (e.g. 'be world class') to another organisation? If so it is not unique and context driven.
  • Simple: Can people remember your vision easily?
  • Stretching: Leadership is about taking people where they would not have gone by themselves. It is about stretching them.
  • Individual: Is it clear what each person is meant to do to achieve the vision?
  • Actionable: Your vision must be actionable and measurable - it should help people decide priorities.

My legacy

In the following YOU Tube former British Prime Minister Tony Blair discusses the advice he received from Bill Clinton. He was speaking at the Stanford Graduate School of Business with Stanford GSB Dean Garth Saloner. In this short interview Tony Blair reflects on his potential legacy.

Activity 2: What are they remembered for?

  • Name each UK Prime Minister or US President since the end of the last World War. The same would apply to leaders of other countries you are working in.
  • Recall one thing about them. Use the following sheet.

  • What lessons do you learn from this activity?

Activity 3: How will I be remembered?

This activity encourages you to reflect on the difference you are trying to make to your school, district or community.

  • How will you and your period of leadership be remembered and remarked upon? Try answering this question.  It is not as easy as it sounds. It is really difficult to be remembered for anything, never mind being thanked and appreciated for anything. However, if you want to lead you should aim to make a difference. You need to have a compelling idea, a vision, that others will notice, remark upon and remember.

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