finding innovative leaders

My excursion to Dallas draws to a close, as I await my departing flight in Terminal C. The previous flight at my gate had its plane grounded at its previous location until tomorrow for an unstated reason. And the management scrambled to locate another plane. Then a few minutes ago, they announced that they found a plane to take all those people to Indianapolis, but that plane is parked about 32 gates away. So hoards of people slowly got up and quickly scurried their way over. At least they got a plane, and didn’t get stranded overnight.

While here for primarily business purposes earlier this week, I extended my stay through the weekend to visit with old and new friends. This morning I attended my old home church, in which I was married 10 years ago. Not too much has changed, though they do have a new building and rearranged some of the furniture.

Engaged in several good conversations over the weekend. One that sparked some energetic dialogue over lunch with Edward Lee was the topic of innovation and leaders. Forward thinking progressive leaders. For me, they go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Everett Roger’s introduced this notion of: Diffusion of Innovations Model. Rogers stated that adopters of any new innovation or idea could be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%), based on a bell curve.

Whether it’s adoption of products, services, or leadership concepts, innovators are venturesome, the visionaries, the wild-eyed revolutionaries, at least to the others, who feel threatened by change and risk-taking. To the innovators, themselves, the adoption is a no-brainer. The early adopters (the next 13.5%) are respectable opinion leaders. They can function effectively as evangelists and missionaries.

My dilemma is that I thrive in an innovative high-pace-of-change context, and being around innovators. I can sniff it out, I can intuitively know. But my temperment and skills mix doesn’t give me the natural fit to be in the driver’s seat nor to be the winsome leading voice of an innovative leader. And to recognize that there’s only 2.5% (or at best, 16%, if we include early adopters) of the population that can track with me makes it a lonely life. No wonder it’s so hard to find them.

But there’s some ways to find them. Not through some diagnostic or personality test. To find or to identify this kind of person, one leader describes it as sniffing them out. Another one describes it as intuitively knowing. Perhaps one of the secret ingredients is being comfortable with the abstract and ambiguity, among other things.

Open ended questions are perhaps a way to find them. Listen to their response. If they say something along the lines of: what exactly do you want to know, or what’s the answer your looking for, then they might not be. But they’re still good people. There’s lots of good people around. If the person oozes with dreams, passions, and ideas, of how things could be, and reveal a spark and fire for something new, then you might have found one.

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  1. Bumble says:

    Have you seen this:

    Unless God calls him to lead the way, the point man always get shot first. Both Luther and Wesley were reluctant reformers…

    I guess I am just too pessimisive…

  2. Jim Killion says:

    It’s always interesting to watch nonprofits, especially faith-based, deal with new technologies. It is a fine and tricky balance between being too early and joining the early adapter/early majority segment. The latter is perhaps more realistic. The tragedy is that too often we end up laggards. Not good. Thanks for your continuing leadership in pressing forward, DJ.

  3. djchuang says:

    Bumble: I don’t mind being a point man who gets shot. What I’m wrestling with is feeling like I don’t have enough drive, energy, and intrinsic motivation to be in those leadership roles – and if I put myself in (and get appointed to) those kinds of position, I would accelerate my burn out.

  4. Scott Ringo says:

    Did you find any good emerging churches there worth checking out. My wife and I will be there in a couple weeks for the Acts29 Bootcamp and would like to scout out some cool churches.

    Coffee For One
    Intricately Woven

  5. Miguel says:

    anybody can help me with an innovation curve for an asiatic or oriental environment?