Unconventional Does Not Mean Unacceptable

It’s guest post Monday! Kaitlyn Nakagoshi provided this guest post on behalf of The University of Notre Dame, in partnership with University Alliance. The University of Notre Dame offers executive certificates in leadership & management, and negotiations. There are also a number of online business classes available. To find out additional information about the courses offered please visit http://www.notredameonline.com/.

When we talk about great leaders, we often enliven the conversations with names of the rich and famous, but we may gain much more insight by discovering leaders who are not listed in Forbes Magazine. More often than not, those pursuing unconventional goals or those pursing established goals unconventionally have great leadership traits. Remember that the leaders who do not announce themselves may have qualities you do not want to miss.

Recently, the charity One World Action hosted an event called “One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women.” At this event, women from all over the world were nominated to make the list of those who are great leaders, but are not widely known.  Many of these women have provided aid within very poor societies and have risked their lives almost every day. A gynecologist from Somalia, a journalist from Colombia, an entrepreneur from India—all are wonderful examples of people who did not allow fear to prevent them from taking action.

Fear of criticism from peers causes many would-be leaders to crumble. Best-selling author, Mark Stevens, believes that great leaders are unconventional by nature. While a skilled leader may rise through the ranks of a company, if the person pulls back at a certain point due to comments from colleagues and relatives, this shows that true leadership is not present. Perhaps they are accused of being workaholics or of considering themselves important. Essentially, there will always be people who will try to prevent a leader from rising. Abiding by socially accepted standards causes a person to stay within the crowd rather than stand out from it.

Sometimes a true leader is the one who fumbles. NFL critics can relentlessly pursue players perceived as being off their game. Still, a player who misses a receiver or overthrows a pass can have a hidden quality that inspires the other teammates. Character and willpower may amount to more wins at the end of the day of than play-by-play statistics. Leadership is not always obvious. It is a good idea to look at the larger picture and consider how a person’s inner quality appears to affect others on the team.

If you want to be an unconventional leader or inspire leadership in those around you, think carefully about what it means:  the ability to see the bigger picture, make strong decisions, stay cool under pressure, understand people, adapt to new situations, stay positive and learn continuously. Notice how others will perceive you if you demonstrate these qualities. You will be someone who makes a decision based on a larger goal. You will not be bothered by criticism because you understand the motives of those who criticize and the genuine needs of those who do not. You will be ready to learn in new situations and well-equipped to face the world with a positive outlook.

Remember though – there are no perfect formulas in life. Rather than trusting ideas about leadership, be aware of those quiet leaders who may be providing inspiration. Think about someone you admire who is not a CEO. What leadership traits cause the person to be admirable? In what ways does this person stand out from the crowd and serve as an example to others?  Finding the unconventional qualities of leadership that distinguish a great person may help you to find these qualities within yourself.

Question: What are some other unconventional qualities of a leader?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • It is true that great leaders are quite unconventional in different areas and ways. I know such a leader who leads a mega-church here in India. One thing I found in him is his unquenchable desire to see people’s lives being radically transformed through the Good News. He also has a great ability to rally people behind him for the cause of the gospel.

    Thanks Dan and Kaitlyn for the helpful post.

    • Joe,

      It sounds like his desire to help others be transformed through the Good News is a catalyst for others to want to follow him and be apart of the church. Thanks for sharing the example.

  • I like the thoughts in this post.

    Leadership is not about perfection. Many people hesitate to call themselves leaders (while others consider them to be) because the title sounds heavy. But leadership is really about belief in one self, being available and stepping up, picking up yourself when you fail, keeping the forward movement.

    great post thoughts here

    • Ngina,

      Great point, “leadership is not about perfection,” this is so true. No person is perfect but it’s what they do when they fail or make a mistake that counts. This goes along with the other points you shared.

      Glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for reading and sharing.

  • “Character and willpower may amount to more wins at the end of the day of than play-by-play statistics.” That’s a very thought-provoking statement. It makes me think of quarterbacks who are known for firing up their team. There are other athletes who may have been incredibly skilled but were traded because their egos were tearing teams apart.

    • Loren,

      I also really liked that statement. I believe no amount of skill or talent is worth it if the person has pride or ego that tears the team apart.

      Thank you for adding your thoughts to the post.

  • I always admire the leaders who seem to be quieter and lead from relationship/influence rather than position. Natural introverts who are powerful leaders really inspire me.

    • Jason,

      I think many people think the opposite, that introverts are not good leaders because of being more to themselves and quite. both have skills and different approaches to leading. I agree with you about the importance of leading through relationships rather than position.

      Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  • One of the greatest leaders I know doesn’t consider himself to be a leader. But he is willing to take on the tough topics, he doesn’t back down from peer pressure and he ‘practices what he preaches’. He is a man who daily strives to put God above self.

    • That’s a true leader TC Avey!!! Thank you for sharing.

  • I always love leaders who never take themselves too seriously. The ability to laugh at yourself when you mess up, and shrug it off is powerful motivation. It always reminds me that no one is perfect and your reaction to your mistake is more important than never making any.

    • Seth,

      I totally agree with you. I think you mentioned some essential while unconventional leadership skills/characteristics. Donald Trump came to mind as a person who should take time to laugh more, just saying:)

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Learning techniques to be a leader can be effective, but I believe the characteristics the author is writing about are ones that people are hard wired with by God.

    The characteristics the author is writing about aren’t a choice to the natural leaders, it’s as if they don’t have a choice, something inside drives them.

    I think another, I don’t know if you’d call it a quality, but an ingredient of leaders, is the passion or obsessiveness that makes them look for an edge, often when others are resting or recuperating.

    • Floyd,

      Great point about God hard wiring it into people. I think as a person of faith when we draw closer to God then he instills His characteristics into us allowing us to lead better.

      The passion and drive when others are resting is a huge factor to a person moving ahead of the game and seeing success.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the discussion.

  • The best trait of an unconventional leader is one who is willing to serve others. Putting them before himself.

    • Joe,

      Totally true, being a servant leader is unconventional but essential. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • For me being an unconventional Leader means leading out of the norm of other Leaders. Start with the way you lead whatever that may be. It does not have to be like the conventional methods of Leadership. Also, showing everyone that you can be a leader even if your title does not match it.

    • Lincoln Parks,

      Great point and addition. I think doing this requires knowing self. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • An unconventional approach: appearing ignorant. Leaders learn what their followers know. If the leader is always telling and talking, he doesn’t know what his people know.

    Sometimes, appearing unsure of the answer will uncover motivations to get the task completed more effectively.

    • Andrew,

      What a great way to get feedback or your peoples thoughts or ideas about a topic. I have never thought about appearing ignorant but it sounds like it would work. Thank you for adding value to the post and discussion.

  • Humility. It keeps leaders grounded and to never stop learning 😉

    • Jamie,

      So true, humility is essential. Thank you for adding it.

  • Kaity

    Wow I can’t believe how many insightful and encouraging comments are posted and the article has only been live since yesterday. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed.

    Dan, your audience is wonderful!

    I just want to let everyone know that I no longer work on behalf of the University of Notre Dame’s certificate program, so this is probably the last of my guest posts. I just happened to remember that you (Dan) told me that it would be published on April 9th so I wanted to check it out this morning. It looks great and it was a pleasure working with you.

    I have taken on a part-time country club job so that I may focus on studying for the GMAT and applying/preparing for graduate school. I wish everyone the best with their future in leadership and again, thank you for the positive commentary!


  • Right on the money. Seth Godin is another person who represents this idea very well. He says that the natural feelings of resistance we get when encountering certain obstacles actually serve as a compass to know what we SHOULD do. i.e., what everyone else is too afraid to try, is precisely what we should be attempting! I’m a fan of “unconventional” leadership :)

    • Stephen,

      I really enjoy reading Seth Godin’s blog and books, he’s such a wise and insightful man. Thank you for reading and sharing. I’m also a fan of unconventional leadership:)