Thought Catalysts: Ryan Estis on Innovative Leadership

June 16, 2016 Ryan Estis, Speakers' Spotlight

You've heard over and over that there are leaders and then there are followers. Generally the idea is to be the former.

But perhaps it's worth a shot to look at this phrase the other way around. Maybe to be a leader, it’s worth being a follower.

Hear us out. By follower, we really mean learner.

Think about it. The people who lead the way with their awesome ideas and wicked talents did so by acquiring knowledge and using it in new ways. So basically, we all need to learn stuff to get to that same leading spot.

We could call this content thought leadership, but that’s such a broad term. There’s a better way of describing the ideas and individuals that get you thinking and inspire you to act.

They are Thought Catalysts. Here it is as told by the movers and shakers from Speakers’ Spotlight. 


Everybody’s talking about innovation. Of course, everybody wants to innovate. We’re living in a disruptive time. Most of the business conferences I attend have a portion of the agenda and content specifically focused around leading “innovation” and unlocking the best ideas to move further and faster toward a vision for 2020.

Our workforce expects different things from their employers and managers. Our customers expect better products and services, faster. Our leaders and investors are looking for growth and returns.

How can we capitalize amid the chaos and lead teams to advance with confidence, commitment and continuous improvement top of mind?

I see three things that innovative leaders do differently.


The only way to truly innovate is to take calculated risks. Perfectionism slows you down. Instead of shooting for perfection, look for small, iterative steps you can take toward your goals.

When people take chances and try new ideas, they’re going to fail. It’s just part of the process. Ask yourself: How does my organization view failures? Do we look for opportunities to learn, or do we punish our people for mistakes?

If you’re going to drive innovation, you have to have a healthy relationship with and tolerance for failure.


Most people today are overscheduled and stretched thin at work. They bounce between meetings and struggle to stay on top of their inbox. That doesn’t leave much time to really think, listen, learn or creatively solve problems.

Leaders have the opportunity to change that. What gets scheduled, gets done. Schedule time for yourself and your employees to think, collaborate and get out from under the daily grind that minimizes creativity and real innovation.


What does “innovation” really mean for you? How will you change to better serve your customers in 2020? What will those changes look like for your employees?

The best leaders I’ve spent time with have a clear vision of the future. They show their people the path they’re going to take, and proactively connect people to that path. The best leaders are FutureMakers: They establish a vision and show people how to get there.


Ryan Estis is a business performance expert who focuses on assisting companies with making connections with their audiences and employees. To read more of his posts, visit his page on Speakers' Spotlight. To have Ryan speak at your next function, email Speakers' Spotlight at 

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