From Inspiration to Innovation: How to Challenge the Process

Sep 22, 2021

Have you ever caught yourself going through the motions, only to wonder if there may be a different, more effective way to do what you have been doing all along? Taking time to explore innovative ideas and have an open mind to experiment is the foundation of the third of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®, Challenge the Process. Considering new ways to approach your work can benefit not only your organization, but your own path to exemplary leadership.

Often, work processes are so engrained that we don’t question why we do them. Regardless of their effectiveness, it is easy to go on autopilot and not stop to consider whether there is a better way, especially when the organization at large continues to encourage the status quo. Challenge the Process allows leaders to step back and assess where they have room to grow and do things differently, while creating an environment within their organization that makes it safe to challenge norms in the pursuit of greatness.

Encourage Innovation

Exemplary leadership is grounded in innovation. Regardless of your status or title, you have the power to assess the kind of work you do and the systems you typically work within, to challenge yourself to think outside the box.

“Sometimes challenges find leaders, and sometimes leaders find challenges; most often it’s a little of each,” say James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge. Typically, when exemplary leaders reflect on times of powerful growth and success, they recall moments when they overcame challenges or took the initiative to overcome adversity.

Exemplary leaders seize the initiative and exercise outsight, and you can, too.

Make it Safe to Experiment

How often do you shake things up? Not only in your work life, but in your personal life as well? Doing novel things, like taking a class on a subject outside your comfort zone, or challenging yourself to participate in a new sport increases personal fulfillment and can transfer to the professional environment.

Pursuing opportunities that challenge yourself, while creating an environment where the people around you are encouraged to do the same, can help you on your path toward exemplary leadership. Looking outside your experience to explore new ways of doing things can help you innovate from right where you are.

As they say in The Leadership Challenge, “You can’t achieve anything new or extraordinary by doing things the way you’ve always done them. You have to test unproven strategies. You have to break out of the norms that box you in, venture beyond the limitations you usually place on yourself and others, try new things, and take chances.”

Take Concrete Steps

When learning to Challenge the Process, it’s important to create opportunities to celebrate the small wins. Taking small but concrete steps to make impactful change will inspire more innovation, not only within yourself but with those around you.

Like any skill, challenging the process takes consistent self-reflection, commitment, and practice but the small changes will add up to bigger wins. By challenging the process and creating a new way of working, you can inspire the exemplary leader in everyone.

The Leadership Challenge, Copyright © 2017 by James M Kouzes and Barry Posner

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