How Great Leaders Learn To Stand Out

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For the last three months I’ve been partnering with an ultra-fast growing start-up.

The company is in the energy technology space – not something that sounds too sexy at first, but what they do is truly unique. Using clever proprietary technology, they’ve been able to reduce the total energy consumption at places like GE by 5% in literally a matter of weeks.

Not surprisingly, they’re therefore hiring like crazy – and generating lots of interest from candidates.

So much so, that even for executive level positions, they’re having to be selective. For a recent CFO search, they had over 60 applicants. But what was interesting however, is that some of the candidates that performed the best in the process managed to stand-out in a way that instantly made them more noticeable.

One of these candidates not only sent her resume but also a case history of the recent fundraising she had done (a key component of the role). Another got a mutual contact to email their CEO with a recommendation. The candidate who ultimately got selected bizarrely insisted on only interviewing off their premises throughout the entire process.

Strange as it might sound, with so many qualified candidates to choose from in the end the person who simply differentiated themselves the most landed the job.

In the crowded and fast-paced world we live in, standing out has never been more important. Being good, smart or hard-working is important but something achievers also do better than most is that they get noticed.

Here are some ways how great leaders learn to stand out.

They take risks

Differentiation often requires going against the masses.

Taking a stance. Challenging the status quo. Daresay, even being controversial?

In an attempt to stand-out, it’s often necessary to take risks. You see although we may want to get noticed, as hugely social creatures we also crave social acceptance from our fellow human beings. So most of us are prepared to go so far to stand out – but without wanting to be too different in fear of not fitting in.

Great leaders understand that often the bigger the risk, the bigger reward. Even in high-stakes or high-pressure situations, if the competition is intense sometimes it’s necessary to do what it takes to stand-out. To get noticed. Even if that means running the risk of being controversial. Just like a master poker player knows when it’s time to go “all-in” rather than keep playing with the odds stacked against them, sometimes to stand-out you have to learn to twist.

Great leaders take risks to stand out.

They watch others

In ten years as a recruiter working with hundreds of successful leaders, one thing I can say with confidence that top performers do is monitor the competition around them.

Contrary to popular belief, the best leaders are not tunnel-visioned on their mission so that they inspire everyone else around them. More often, a key part of their success is that they are highly aware of what every else is doing so that they know how to differentiate themselves.

Great leaders understand that to stand out in a picture it’s essential to know what color the canvas is. Unlike most people, rather than simply believe they are special and unique compared to everyone else, they know exactly what needs to be done to stand-out the most.

Great leaders are aware of the masses.

They look back as well as forward

It’s commonly thought that differentiation is often linked with innovation.

That to stand-out, it’s important to do something new.

Yet some of the best marketers I have ever worked with in my career have taught me that in many cases to really get noticed it’s better to revisit the past than create the future. Just like bringing back a classic dress or using an iconic song for a television commercial, sometimes re-introducing a powerful theme from the past can be much more effective.

Great leaders understand that true beauty is timeless. They realise that the world moves in cycles and that fashions, interests, opportunities and beliefs are constantly changing. If everyone else is innovating, it’s possible to stand-out more by being old school.

Great leaders aren’t afraid to go back.

Conclusion

To get noticed, you have to stand out.

Especially for those of us whose success depends on the awareness and co-operation of others.

Successful leaders realise standing out from the crowd is an important skill that is worth developing and investing in.

How do you stand out?

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