Seven Tips for Leading Outside the Box

by SCN Blog Post Contributor Julie Jakopic


A couple of months ago, I was asked to talk about leading “outside the box.” I wasn’t totally sure what that meant, but I think all too often leaders “inside the box” are leading based on how they understand the “role” of leader.  And all too often it comes off fake and doesn’t garner the respect or followers expected. For me “leading outside the box” is really about leading authentically. It’s not you being what you think a leader is. It’s you being you as a leader. I have come to think about it as leading without a box, not just outside one. Here are seven tips for doing just that.


Tip 1: Be yourself. Be authentic. People don’t follow a role, they follow people they know, like and trust. It is hard enough to lead as yourself. It takes a ton of energy to be who you think someone wants you to be.


Tip 2: Be on purpose. Take a clear stand to be outside the box, in order to understand what you can do better from outside the box and why it’s worth it.


Tip 3: Be clear. It’s important to be clear about what you want and where YOU want to go in order to pursue not what you think others want, but what you really want.


Tip 4: Engage others. People are used to boxes. If you are going to lead and play outside it, you need to help people understand where you are, where you are headed, and how they fit in.


Tip 5: Be curious. Ask questions. Don’t jump to implement the first right answer, consider 3-5 alternatives first.


Tip 6: Play pretend. Feeling stuck? Pretend to come from a totally different perspective. If you are an engineer, consider how a famous painter might tackle the problem.  A writer? How would an accountant look at it?

Tip 7: Change shapes. It’s just one way of organizing reality. Leading boldly means you can change the box.