Pioneering leaders are adventurous — driven to keep seeking bigger and better roles, products, and experiences. They inspire a team to venture into uncharted territory. We get caught up in their passion to grow, expand, and explore.
The pioneering dimension of leadership
The most effective leaders use all eight dimensions of leadership as needed and when necessary. But everyone has the style they gravitate to. If you’re naturally this type of leader, you’re probably very confident in your vision and enjoy winning others to your point of view. You have a high need for freedom and see opportunities where others don’t.
On the other hand, you’re likely to ignore the needs of your followers, or just not take the time to understand their reality. Your bias towards action can get your team moving quickly, but it can also cause you to overlook systemic problems.
What we can learn from pioneering leaders
Be aggressive about exploring opportunities
This is a great dimension to draw upon if you’re an entrepreneur in the first stages of building a business or brand. It’s also good to develop these behaviors during times when things seem to be just coasting along. It’s very common for managers, peers and direct reports to want their leaders to “be more active about finding new opportunities,” according to Wiley’s database of rater responses to their Everything DiSC 363 for Leaders assessment (The Work of Leaders, 2013). The pioneering leader reminds us that innovation doesn’t happen without active exploration. In other words, the next big thing isn’t hiding under your desk.
“Leaders are pioneers—people who are willing to step out into the unknown. They search for opportunities to innovate, grow, and improve.”
— James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge
- 5 Behaviors of Leaders Who Embrace Change, Harvard Business Review
- 5 Ways Leaders Act Like Rebels (That’ll Make You Successful, Too), Forbes
- How Transformation-Ready Leaders Learn, strategy + business
Leaders lead change and stretch the boundaries
Are you in a period of stability or one of stagnation? People tend to overstate risks and under-emphasize potential rewards. The pioneering leaders aren’t afraid to do what’s never been done before. They encourage growth for the organization and for the people around them. They stay current with best practices and opportunities to stretch beyond the status quo. You might be working hard to create a stable environment for your employees, but you need to be sure you aren’t also quashing the creativity of the entrepreneurial spirit around you.
“Let people know that innovative thinking is a part of everyone‘s job, regardless of their function or level of responsibility.”
— Susan Gebelein et al, Successful Executive’s Handbook
- Why the Best Leaders Act Like Playful Puppies, Entrepreneur
- Why Challenging The Status Quo Will Make You A Better Leader And How To Do It, CoSchedule blog
- Challenge the Process by Creating Original Ideas, Flashpoint Leadership
Learn to take leaps of faith
Careful planning has its place and its rewards, but sometimes bold action is necessary. The first to market often has the advantage. The faith you show in your ideas inspires others. Not taking a chance can present its own dangers. If you’re risk adverse, allow yourself time for a reasonable amount of analysis and then act. Don’t let the research, risk assessments and worry stop you from taking the leap.
“The truth is that challenge is the crucible for greatness. … And the truth is also that you either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. You have to go first as a leaders.”
— James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Truth About Leadership
- 5 reasons why bold leaders are remarkably successful, Ladders
- You Win Or You Learn: Risk-Taking For Leaders, Forbes
The pitfalls of pioneering-only leadership
Overall the natural pioneering leader could be more effective by showing greater consideration, humility and patience.
As you lead your team into new territory, you can’t forget the needs of the rest of the team. Understand that their needs are probably very different from yours. They might worry that your drive and enthusiasm is taking them off a cliff or into territory they aren’t ready to explore. Is your team being pulled along in your wake or are they truly on the journey with you? Have you given consideration to their concerns and needs?
A clear vision in one’s own head doesn’t always translate clearly to everyone else, even when presented with confidence and charm. Pioneering leaders tend to gloss over the specifics or appear to others as reacting on the fly. Their high ego needs can be an issue if their charisma fails, causing others to feel pushed, intimidated or insincerely flattered by them. If a leader inspires but does not support, he or she can lose followers along the way.
Discover your own preferred leadership dimension
The 8 Dimensions of Leadership Map is a quick assessment to give you an idea of your own style.
Different business situations often require different styles of leadership. Mentors, coaches and self-reflection can help any type of leader stretch into each of the leadership behaviors needed by every effective leader.
Here’s an overview of lessons you can learn from each of the eight dimensions of leadership. These lessons and insights are drawn from The 8 Dimensions of Leaders: DiSC® Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader.
By Kristeen Bullwinkle
Originally published on TalentGear.com.