The Ways Of An Innovative Leader.

by Patrick Liew on September 29, 2013


My time has come.

As an ADHD-blessed student, I used to daydream and imaginine alternate worlds. I also thought about different ways to tackle academic curriculum even though they might not be correct.

I looked at words and played with them in my mind. I replaced them with various words and permutation of words, and transformed them into all shapes and sizes for mental entertainment.

Numbers also played games in my brain. Together with words, they could explode into an infinite number of combinations.

Imagine them going into battles every now and then and be enlisted as part of an epic cartoon-like drama. There would be millions of them – flying, somersaulting, changing…all for my pleasure.

The drama is directed in my mind and obviously by yours truly. Meanwhile, my body will be transfixed in the classroom.

When I first went to school, I would ask the teachers many questions. It didn’t take me long to realise that my queries were not oftentimes welcomed.

Many teachers preferred students like me to be seen and not heard. Thankfully, I found other ways to satisfy my curiosity.

To be fair to my teachers, I was a ball of energy – and probably still is – and it was not easy to manage me in a class of more than 40 students.

Throughout my life, I refused to be moulded and shaped by normal conventions. I almost became apologetic about it for awhile but thankfully, I decided not to rein in this ‘renegade.’

I became a lifelong non-conforming non-conformist. :o)

The good news for ‘recalcitrants’ like me is that divergent and contrarian thoughts have become better appreciated in today’s fast-changing world.

Thoughts that are risky, amorphous, fast-pacing, adventurous, future-oriented, and abnormal can become ingredients for creativity. They can be essentials for developing innovations and are therefore, part of the regular breakfasts of entrepreneurial champions.

The leaders of the brave new and insanely exciting world will need to chart new paths. They have to turn long and hard corners, and break new horizons.

They will discover future black holes and plant flags on virgin territories. Along the way, they will set new records and chart new directions.

Innovative leaders will continue to fight the good fight against the flip side of success.

They are cognisant of the fact that success breeds fear of changing. It compels people to hold on to the present.

It drives people to avoid risks and failures. It lures them to luxuriate in past glory and perpetuate the temporary and transient value of past successes.

The greatest obstacle to creativity is within. Unleashing creativity begins with detachment from the ego and past achievements.

There is a need to give up old wine skins so as to take in new wine. To do that, innovative leaders need to overcome fears, uncertainties and doubts.

They need to be forward looking and to continue to innovate for a better world.

They have to be brave enough to prove accepted theories wrong. And develop new outlooks and ways to not only serve humankind but also reshape it for a higher level of achievement.

The world needs such leaders to create radical breakthroughs. Breakthroughs that are not only beneficial, they will influence others and change the way they think, speak, act, work, and even the way they live.

These breakthroughs will also create a cascade of positive outcomes. They will make a major impact on the landscape of life.

How can we become such an innovative leader and fulfil our greatest destiny?

From my research and observation, I found that there are ten processes that may help us achieve radical breakthroughs.

1. Breaking The Mould – Rebelling, Revolting, And Revolutionizing

Innovative leaders are driven by a burning cause. The sense of purpose drives their performance and pursuits.

The logic is simple: Passion about the ‘why’s for creating changes will compel them to find out the ‘how’s.

They are rebels with a cause. They are willing to leave behind the past and revolt for a better and endless frontier.

They are not confined by borders and boundaries and neither are they restricted by out of bounds markers.

They are not rooted to any frill, fad or fashion. They seek to go beyond the packaging to study the spirit and substance of the subject.

Innovative leaders have a healthy dissatisfaction with the current situation. They are not concern about being like the rest and that’s why they can come across as being more unreasonable than reasonable. Abnormal than normal.

They look at the world from inside out as well as from outside in. They take a helicopter and a 360-degree view of life to explore all possibilities.

The word impossible is not a part of their accepted lexicon.

They endeavour to see the world through a grain of sand and a grain of sand through the world. And they make sense of where the sand should be in the world and where the world should be in the sand.

They are restless souls, always desiring to know the unknown and discover the undiscovered so as to expand their worldview. They are constantly thinking about how to disrupt current patterns and looking for the next breakthrough.

While others are thinking about what’s next, they are deliberating about what’s coming after ‘what’s next.’ They are looking ahead of the curve and around the bend to invest in the future and be future-ready.

They recreate themselves rigorously, relentlessly and unrelentingly.

To them, there are much more to gain in recreating themselves than not to do it. In fact, if they don’t change, the increasing rate of change in the new economy may render them irrelevant and redundant. They are aware that they may stand to lose everything.

2. Living In Creativity – Inhabiting, Immersing, And Involving

The innovative leaders cannot accept an environment of mediocrity. They do not want to live a routine, ordinary and predictable life.

They prefer not be found in the company of the brain-dead, the blind-followers, the aimless drifters, and the unchanging human rock. Neither do they allow these people to influence them and affect their outcomes in life.

They are drawn to creative engagements, people and environment. They are juiced up by innovative leaders, radical ideas, and unchartered territories.

In the same way, they attract those who dare to be mad, foolish, crazy, and abandoned for the sake of positive breakthroughs. Through the biblical  ‘iron sharpens iron’ process, they increase each other’s creative quotient (CQ) and outputs.

By immersing in a creative environment externally, they improve their internal environment. They will become fertile soil for a thousand flowers to bloom.

3. Joining The Dots – Connecting, Collaborating, and Co-Creating Solutions

Innovative leaders realise that who and what they associate with and how they associate with them can be  ingredients for creativity. The more positive ingredients they have in their minds, the higher the chances for more and better innovative results.

As innovative leaders  immerse themselves in creative and innovative environments, they will pursue new thoughts, feelings, relationships, activities, and experiences.

They flood their minds with and keep an inventory of important ideas, knowledge, expertise, and other resources.

They are constantly re-thinking about how to do well within the box. At the same time, they are also thinking out of the box by, for example, finding out what other people are thinking about in their boxes.

They are also seeking feedback about their thoughts and thought processes.

They subscribe to ‘Creativity by wandering around.’ They  interact with people from different career, creed,  culture, and  custom and on a personal and a group basis.

They make it a point to attend relevant courses, seminars, conferences, and exhibitions. They pick the brains of domain knowledge experts and continue to explore ways to achieve best practice.

They focus on the things that would make an impact on their work, life and future. By learning how to sieve through and leverage on information, they are able to discover emerging trends and make better informed judgements.

Innovative leaders initiate mastermind groups. These are groups of people who are competent and are committed to help each other improve and achieve better results.

They have comparatively more and better dots in their minds. They find more and better ways to join the dots and do so  in an infinite number of ways to achieve radical breakthroughs.

4. Developing A Sixth Sense – Sensitising, Searching, And Seeking

The mental view of ourselves may not be ourselves. Similarly, the ‘GPS’ in our brain may not be the actual territory.

The map in our mind may not show us the way to our destination.

Innovative leaders realise that what is real may not be real. They do not assume that an accepted truth is definitely the truth.

They continue to refresh, refine, and sometimes refute accepted empirical conclusions and even clinically-tested theories.

Therefore, they are curious, inquisitive and adventurous. They may intrude wisely so as to find a lost trail or follow a new trail to the end of it.

Innovative leaders are sensing the internal and external landscapes all the time. They switch on all their five senses to study the variegated terrains.

They look at the world from different perspectives and through different lenses. They explore the terrains and re-imagine the future so as to lead themselves and others to the promise land.

They discipline themselves to hear beyond sounds, see beyond sights, smell beyond smells, taste beyond tastes, and feel beyond feelings.

They are constantly developing intelligence outposts to find out the latest trends and changes. They seek material information, information that can help them enhance their performance and results.

5. Pushing The Envelopes – Trying, Tinkering, And Testing

Nothing successful has been achieved without exploration, experimenting and execution.

Innovative leaders are explorers of the minds. They know that by changing their mindset, they can change their behaviour and results.

Their mind is therefore like a constant battlefield. There is a healthy circuit of debates and arguments, including self-critical dialogues.

They are constantly ideating in their mind.  They are exploring for the next breakthrough and experimenting so as to change the course of life.

Innovative leaders are also regularly changing their behaviour so as to change their mindset and outputs. They try out different things in different ways in the course of their daily life.

For example, they may vary their normal routines. If they usually walk on the left side of the street, they may try walking on the right.

They subject themselves to different exposures and experiences. They cultivate different expertise to come out with more and better ideas.

They are prepared to destroy or deconstruct things around them to find out how they work and how they can work in a better or different way. They are ready to redesign, reengineer and rebuild them so as to create radical breakthroughs.

They test their ideas with different people, especially with groups and individuals who operate at a different or at a higher plane in life. They are not afraid to copy and improve on  what is good and discard what is bad.

Through a series of trial, tinkering and testing, innovative leaders discover a better way to succeed.

6. Turning Over The Stones – Probing, Probing, And Probing

Innovative leaders clean the slate that life offers them on a regular basis and dream on it. They build layers of design and systems on it so as to bring life to the dream.

Along the way, they challenge old and current concepts and practices. They defy all odds, including the odds they create within themselves.

They have a perpetual research and development laboratory in their minds. They thrive on creating hypotheses and testing them to find out the truths.

They realise the quality of their creative outputs depends on the quantity of quality questions they posed to themselves. They are constantly questioning, probing, and seeking the facts behind what may seem to be imponderables in life.

Asking the right question acts as a rudder to help them navigate through fears, doubts and uncertainties and helps them sail to the right port of call. When the right questions are being posed, our Creator will somehow provide the right answers.

They ask questions to help them think about the unthinkable and do the un-doable. The right question helps them to know the unknown and discover the undiscovered. To do that, they learn to ask questions that ordinary people will not ask.

They ask questions that defy the norm. They ask:

‘Why it can be done?’ instead of ‘Why it can’t be done?’

‘What if it can be done?’ instead of ‘What if it can’t be done?’

‘Why not?’ instead of ‘Why ?’

‘How you know you know?’ instead of just ‘How you know?’

‘What has yet to be known and discovered?’ instead of ‘What do we know and have here?’

‘Great idea, how can we make it work?’ instead of ‘Great idea, why this will not work?’

They constantly ask themselves,

“What are the problems we need to resolve tomorrow today? What are the opportunities that we need to capitalisetomorrow today?”

By asking the right questions, they change their thoughts and how they think. They change the way they map the so-called realities in their minds.

They apply a process of disciplined inquiry and critical thought. Along the way, they sieve through the responses to determine how they can translate them into useful knowledge and social consequences.

They keep asking questions until they come out with a better and not so clear-cut solution.

This iterative and endless process of inquiry, development, correction, and continuos improvements help them fulfil their dream and pursue more and better dreams.

7. Persevering To The End – Pursuing, Pressing On, And Persisting

Living a creative life is not a short distance sprint but a long distance race.

Innovative leaders realise that they need to foster passion and perseverance to achieve both short and long term visions and to finish the race. Through commitment, discipline and grit, they develop the stamina to stay the course and up the game.

It is a race against themselves and to live out our Creator’s blueprint for their life. How others run the race matters only if it helps them enjoy the race and run it in a better way.

Throughout the race, they need to learn how to enhance their capacity and ability to overcome challenges. They need to develop tenacity and agility to go and grow through adversities and failures.

What seem to be setbacks  are but feedback and experiences to guide them. They are lessons to help them find an easier, faster and better way to the desired outcome.

Every creative action or even attempt at creativity can help them improve their creativity quotient and rate of success.

Perseverance helps them attain excellence in their pursuits and achieve major accomplishments in life. It is a vital part of the creativity toolkit for achieving sustainable success.

8. Drawing From The Deep Recesses – Reflecting, Realigning, And Resolving

Creativity is a revolving door that opens inward first before opening itself externally. In other words, we need to relax, find our centre, and search from the deep reservoir of our creative resources first.

Then we need to open ourselves to the resources and possibilities out there and then bring them back into the deep recesses of our being so as to process and create innovative breakthroughs.

However, we live in a world where noise abounds. Silence has taken a negative retreat.

Innovative leaders realise that to make sense of the complexity of the post-modernistic world and the fast pace of change, they need to discipline themselves to return back to silence regularly. They make time for deep reflection.

They meditate about life and how to live it out creatively. They carefully consider their options and how to create better ones.

Reflections help them to fine-tune their presuppositions and worldview. By crafting better mental maps, they can better track through the terrains of life.

They are mindful that they could be wrong and the terrains may change. That’s why they ensure that they are constantly updated about changes and latest findings.

Through critical self-reflections, they are able to re-think past experiences and the significance to their work and life. It is one of the best ways to compel themselves to change, learn and improve.

They can better focus on issues and analyse them. There is more clarity and with more clarity, there will be more power to create solutions.

9. Selling – Preempting, Preparing, And Persuading

Innovative leaders realise that they need to change mind sets to galvanise support. They need to attract buy-ins so as to raise the necessary resources to turn their creative ideas into useful innovations.

That’s why they spend time to study the personality, needs, and requirements of their stakeholders. They research and develop ways to appeal to them and win their support.

They preempt problems, concerns and questions and prepare themselves vigorously to address them. They may proactively respond to them even before these issues are being  raised by the stakeholders.

They learn to allay stakeholders’ fears and anxieties. They demonstrate to them that their ideas and innovations can be a plus factor and will value add to them on both personal and corporate levels.

These creative initiatives may not be in total alignment with current customs and practices. However, they are able to show that the outcomes of their innovations will contribute to organisational bottom line and aspirations.

10. Leading The Change –  Dreaming, Designing, And Delivering

We are all in the people business. It is the people in an organisation that makes the organisation works.

Creativity is also a team’s sports. Without contributions from others, we will not be able to generate more and better ideas and turn them into a reality.

Innovative leaders realise that to raise the creativity level in their team, it begins with themselves. They need to set an example and live out a life of creativity.

They form teams with different talents and expertise to complement themselves. They seek a variety of inputs to foster unique ideas and innovations.

They help their team mates realise the creative genius within them and help them unleash their creative energy to achieve the best outcomes.

They appeal to healthy values, meanings, purposes and dreams.

They groom innovative cheerleaders on every level of the organisational hierarchy. These cheerleaders are used as catalysts to enhance creativity, lead projects, and help overcome roadblocks to creative outputs.

They create a safe environment, an environment that embraces risk and failure so that their team mates can feel unfettered in creating new breakthroughs.

They encourage their team in pushing the creative wheel through potholes, puddles, and pitfalls until they reach the tipping point to become an innovative team and beyond.

They foster healthy internal competition and incentivise their team mates to come out with more and better ideas.

They realise that creativity needs ‘legs’ to help stand on its feet. They raise the  necessary resources to transform an idea into a useful innovation that will impact lives on a protracted basis.

They spend time with the innovators in their team and motivate them privately. They will also recognise them publicly, regularly and generously.

Through these 10 processes, they become dream chasers and world changers.

In conclusion. remember the best way to start becoming creative is to start creating. To be innovative, innovate.

The best time to start is now. The best place to start is from where you are.

Start ideating right now.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Please visit my website,

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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