The Most Important Leadership Competency Today

June 3, 2024


What leadership capability are you developing?

Every year, researchers publish annual studies that showcase the ‘most important skill for leaders to succeed.’ While perennial competencies like empathy, discipline, and financial acumen are obvious, the skill that may be surprising and unexpected: ingenuity. 

In the past, leadership was all about cultivating compliance. I’ve often equated this to a classical symphony conductor, where the notes and cadences are played exactly as planned with zero variability. But in our world of volatility, change, and disruption, the traditional approach has become tone-deaf.

Today, things are too dynamic and fast-moving. Our best bet as leaders is to help our teams cultivate their innate ability of ingenuity. Rather than following a dusty checklist, the modern landscape requires us to be agile, creative, and adaptive.

Instead of playing classical, leaders today must play jazz.

When we nurture ingenuity in ourselves and our teams, we become equipped to tackle tough challenges and seize new opportunities.

Guidelines > Policy


Policy comic

I’m sure you’ve been frustrated countless times by a senseless company rule.  Explaining your disappointment to the emotionless customer service rep, you’re told, “I’m sorry. That’s just our policy.”

Looking to grow our own organizations, what might happen if we elevated our “policies” to “guidelines”? Instead of hardline rules, we can set the vision and then trust our talented team members to do the right thing. 

Replacing policies with guidelines is a double-win. First, it’s much more likely to engender customer delight and, in turn, competitive advantage and loyalty. Next, morale and engagement increase dramatically when people feel like they’re trusted and their voice matters.

Fox Fold - Revolutionizing Toilet Paper.

Fox Fold's Toilet Paper Holder

Commercial settings like hotels and office buildings regularly discard millions of half-used toilet paper rolls, leading to significant waste and unnecessary costs. This wasteful practice not only impacts the bottom line but also contributes to environmental harm.

Enter Fox Fold, a company that’s reimagined toilet paper with a focus on sustainability and cost-efficiency. By designing a refillable, eco-friendly container system, Fox Fold allows businesses to save money and reduce waste. Their innovative approach ensures that every sheet is used, eliminating the need to discard half-used rolls.  They also use bamboo and other sustainable materials, which are more eco-friendly than traditional paper options. 

I love how these innovators took a mundane, everyday item and completely reinvented it. They’re not only driving substantial savings and environmental benefits but also showcasing the power of rethinking the status quo. 

If Fox Fold can reimagine something as basic and standardized as toilet paper, just think what you can reinvent. What existing system, approach, or product are you ready to rethink?

What’s your vantage point?

We’ve all heard colleagues proclaim they are “heads down” on a project or that they can’t explore new opportunities because they’re “heads down in execution mode.”

But when was the last time someone told you they were busy being “heads up”?

Of course, there’s a time to be heads down when conquering our to-do lists. But there’s an equally important time to be heads up.

Heads up vs heads down infographicToo often, the urgency of being heads down beats out the longer-term importance of being heads up. Heads up is an inspiring vantage point that most people rarely visit and represents a massive opportunity for each of us.
I’m sure you’ve already mastered heads down. Are you ready to give the alternative a spin?

To your creative success…


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About Josh

Josh Linkner is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, venture capital investor, professional jazz guitarist, and a globally recognized innovation expert. To learn more or to explore a collaboration, visit