What do you picture when you think of a successful person? I’m not talking about the physical possessions — flashy cars, big houses, wads of cash — none of that stuff. I’m talking about the industry disruptors, the ones who really make a difference in business and in society. What type of person makes one successful in this way?
In my experience, successful people are trailblazers, they are always just a little bit left of the expected, and, of course, they aren’t averse to a little rule-breaking. They see the world through a single lens: their purpose. In a word, successful people are eccentric.
Disruption is the key
Leaders display unique and focused passion, no matter the topic. This passion is critical to their success, but world-changers – or, the eccentrics – are also marked by something else: disruption. We celebrate disruptors in business because we see them as innovators and commend them for going against the status quo. We are inspired by their unique way of thinking – but we don’t often think about what it’s like to actually work with those people.
In fact, the people we work with on a daily basis who exhibit these qualities might even be our greatest aggravators. It can be difficult to identify something great when it’s sitting right in front of you – and getting on your last nerve.
These individuals who have the courage (or, maybe just the sheer lack of give-a-damn) to be eccentric come with confidence, self-assurance, and the ability to think outside the box. They don’t waste time worrying about whether their ideas will be seen as strange; they follow their creative passion because it’s taking them in directions no one has ever gone before.
Industry disruptors don’t simply follow everything their leaders tell them – they’re willing to question and take risks. They find themselves in trouble half the time. But this is precisely what sets them apart. Rules are good for children, but disruptors know that to be a successful adult, you have to think beyond them.
And, you can’t be a disruptor like somebody else. You can’t look at Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs, study their lives, and think, “I’m going to do everything they did.” The whole point is that they did what hadn’t been done before.
Industry disruptors have a spider-web effect
One of my biggest inspirations in life and in business has been my father, Rajinder Kumar Malhotra. He started the largest razor blade business in India and Asia – generating historical brands like Topaz and Super Max that competed with Gillette and the other major international brands: Bic, Shick, Dorco, and more.
What inspired me so much about his life was how he never failed to venture completely outside of the box. Running a business in India, he was up against a lot of government regulation, socialism, traditional joint family business difficulties, and other problems. Having a factory where you make widgets and gadgets in that country has never been easy historically because of these challenges.
At one point, my father was not able to raise the funds he needed through the regular channels: banks and financial institutions. He already had an established name in the market, so he decided to approach his dealers and distributors and raise financing from them instead. This is not what businesses do. But his whole view of life was: “Why be typical? Why be traditional? What is the good of having a name and reputation if I can’t use it to further grow this business? I don’t care if it’s not traditional – I’m going to do it.” He knew that this decision was not just going to affect him but also the rest of his team; the rest of his family.
My father knew about the spiderweb effect. He knew that taking risks like this was going to have an impact on the entire network of razorblade creators, builders, and distributors. His courage wasn’t just going to keep money in his own pocket. It was going to enable the whole industry to keep moving.
MORE FOR YOU
- Coaching Your Way to Success as a Business Leader or Entrepreneur
- 5 Questions That Reveal Whether You’re an Effective Leader
- Why Sometimes Failing Is Essential to Being a Great Entrepreneur
- 13 scary doubts about success as a self-made businessperson
- The 1 Reason Why Leaders Struggle (and How it Can Be Solved)
A Natural Disruptor
Being an industry disruptor has become the new gauge point of success, but what does this really mean?
Disruption is not just about changing the way an industry works. You have to be disruptive in your nature, too. Being a disruptor is not about your product, service, or idea – it’s about being willing to completely go against the norms, even when you are the only one walking that path. True disruptors are people that see why they are boxed in and then decide to work outside of those rules and achieve what they want to anyway.
Even though it is important to understand the link between so-called eccentricity and success, I think that the idea can blind us from the simplicity of what is required to be successful. Success does not have to be complex.
Still, you definitely should not mistake that simplicity for ease. Success is hard work, but it doesn’t require overthinking.
There are four questions that I have trainees in my leadership workshops ask themselves to gauge how ready they are to succeed:
- What is your passion?
- How important is it to you that you pursue that passion?
- Are you prepared to pursue it at all costs?
- Are you prepared to lead by example?
Once you have honestly answered these four questions, the next step is to draw up a plan as to how you are going to achieve this, and then, take action.
Understand, Plan, Execute
Once you are able to grasp how key eccentricity is to success, you need to figure out how this applies to you.
Take some time to understand which unique characteristics you possess that you can hone into a powerfully unique leadership style. Next, develop a plan to use that leadership style and combine it with your passion. Finally, execute that plan. If you struggle, tweak your plan, and then execute it again.
That’s another thing that sets successful, eccentric people apart — action. They keep things interesting, they challenge our preconceptions, and as it turns out, they also change the world. So, take action. Don’t be afraid to be called an eccentric. Your “disruptive” qualities may just be the edge you need to blaze a new trail.