Search for Opportunities
Leaders who are dedicated to making extraordinary things hap-
pen are open to receiving ideas from anyone and anywhere.
They are adept at using their outsight to constantly survey the
landscape of technology, politics, economics, demograph-
ics, art, religion, and society in search of new ideas. They are
prepared to search for opportunities to address the constant
shifts in their organization’s environment. And because they are
proactive, they don’t just ride the waves of change: they make
the waves that others ride. They are prepared to search for op-
portunities to address the constant shifts in the organization’s
You don’t have to change history, but you do have to
change “business as usual.” You have to be proactive, constant-
ly inviting and creating new initiatives. Leaders, by definition,
are out in front of change, not behind it trying to catch up. Be
on the lookout for anything that lulls you or your colleagues into
a false sense of security. Innovation and leadership are nearly
synonymous. This means that your focus is less on the routine
operations and much more on the untested and untried. And
when searching for opportunities to grow and improve, keep
in mind that the most innovative ideas are most often not your
own and not in your own organization. They’re elsewhere, and
the best leaders look all around them for the places in which
breakthrough ideas are hiding. Exemplary leadership requires
outsight, not just insight. That’s where the future is.
The quest for change is an adventure. It tests your will
and your skill. It’s tough, but it’s also stimulating. Adversity
T A K E A C T I O N
introduces you to yourself. To get the best from yourself and
others, you must understand what gives meaning and purpose
to your work.
To Challenge the Process, you must search for opportuni- ties by seizing the initiative and look outward for innovative ways to improve. This means you have to
• Always be asking, “What’s new? What’s next? What’s
• Do something each day so that you are better than you
were the day before.
• Be restless; don’t let routines become ruts.
• Put yourself in new situations; take on a new project at
least once a quarter.
• Find out if “the way things are done around here” still
makes sense. If it doesn’t, do something different.
• Ask your customers (clients, suppliers, and so on) for their
ideas about what you (and your organization) can do
• Go on the Web each day and search for something related
to what you do. Also visit sites that are totally unrelated to
• Design work so that it’s intrinsically interesting.
• Seek firsthand experiences outside your comfort zone and
• Talk with folks outside your organization’s four walls;
encourage others to do the same.
Use The Leadership Challenge Mobile Tool app to immediately integrate these activities into your life and make
this practice an ongoing part of your behavioral repertoire.
WARD CLAPHAM BECAME the commander of the Rich- mond, British Columbia, detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at a time when the city was exploring the possibility of terminating their policing contract with the RCMP and creating their own city police force. Tens of thousands of crimes were reported each year, and youth crime was at an all-time high. Ward was charged with moving the detachment in a new direction and breaking old mindsets.
“We were definitely operating in a reactive, post-incident, cor- rective model of repair,” said Ward. “We were putting Band-Aids on problems and not really getting at the roots of the problems. We were caught up in the status quo . . . and needed to move to a model of prepare, not repair.” Ward also encountered low employee morale within a culture of rigid obedience and antiquated policies. Nobody was talking about the need to do things differently.
After interviewing all of his staff, meeting with many members of the community, and seeing things for himself, Ward took action.