Break the Innovation Chokehold: How to Stop Ruling Like a (Not-So-Benevolent) Dictator and Start Encouraging Big Ideas

Do you lead your team like you’re the great and powerful head of your own nation? Hidden away in your office, shielded from others, do you deliver orders that must be followed, never considering what your employees might think? Do you parade the halls, factory floors, or store aisles of your organization, holding audience with only the small entourage of upper management trailing after you?

Okay, this might be a slight exaggeration. But even if you embrace a less extreme version of the old ‘command and control’ style of leadership, you’re blocking the natural flow of the life’s blood of the company. Innovation.

The boss must act as the ‘external force’ for continuous, systematic change and innovation in an organization. He or she must be poised to seize the moment and capitalize on unique opportunities when they’re presented. But they’ll never be presented if you don’t stir the pot by constantly listening to your employees and challenging them to think about ‘What if?’ in order to improve your products, processes, or procedures.

To achieve true innovation, you can’t lead like an iron-fisted dictator, where your word and only your word is final. You should instead lead as a benevolent dictator – benevolent’ being the operative word – who always puts the company, the employees, and, most importantly, the customer, first.

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About the Author

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988 starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money, a partner, and a small group of investors. As CEO, he grew it to more than 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales topping $5 billion. He is also CEO of Max-Ventures, a venture capital and retail consulting firm, and founder and CEO of Max-Wellness, a comprehensive health and wellness retail chain that launched in 2010. After opening initial laboratory test stores in Florida and Ohio, a national roll-out is now underway. To read Michael Feuer’s complete biography, click here.

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