We all love the superhero stories of great leaders and innovators. And there’s no question that the media likes to sensationalize these stories. I too have fallen prey at times to these inspiring feel good stories, well, mostly because it fuels my hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, this presents a distorted reality to what real leaders of innovation actually experience.
Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with my friend Dan Walker, former Talent Chief for Gap, Apple, and JC Penny, who shared with me insightful personal back-stories on the real journey of innovation and brave leadership, and what truly happens behind closed doors. This eye-opening dialogue taught me a number of valuable lessons that I hope to share with you in my forthcoming book, The Unusual Truth.
My ongoing research for the book has made me realize that most of these sensationalized stories are far from being the sensation we are led to believe. In reality, the journey tends to resemble more of a battered struggle with uncertainty more than anything else.
While these superhero stories are important to help keep the dream alive, it poses an unintentional consequence creating unrealistic expectations from the leaders we depend on every day. It’s a sort of mirage that leads us to believe something that actually isn’t there. I call this ‘the innovator’s paradox’.
So here’s my unusual tip: When you come across a sensationalized story of a great leader or innovator, dig deeper. Try to uncover the untold truth. Because it’s within the story of the journey where the greatest lessons are learned, not in the sensationalized outcome.