The mark of a great leader is his ability to lead other people. It’s not about how much he does so much as it is about how much he is able to inspire other people to get things done. In the area of thought leadership, we can draw inspiration from the new push in start-up culture that aims to get boldly personal with their target audience – opting for example, to present themselves as the face of the company rather than stand behind a brand name. In fact, even their email marketing campaigns are also directed from one person in the company (the company face) rather than from the company name (the illusive brand). With that in mind, I propose a radically alternative way to inspire your employees in the New Year. Rather than leaving personal growth to HR or relying on company retreats and get-togethers, I propose leaders step out from behind the divisional corporate hierarchy and really inspire their employees to think differently.

Getting your employees to think differently is (what I believe to be) the new direction of thought leadership in the corporate world. It involves leaders cultivating a sense of responsibilities for the growth and development of their employees, and working to push their employees past basic thought spheres. Here we’re looking to not only humanize our workforce, but engage them in a creative way that benefits your company. Simply, if you have a synergized team, you’re going to get more record-breaking results.

The idea behind having a well-rounded employee, an employee with a flexible thought process, is based on the fact that today’s business roles require a degree of titles. For example, it’s just not good enough to have a content writer on board. In order to have a great content writer, they should also be able to juggle a role as a journalist, a public relations agent, and a market. Conversely, being a marketer isn’t good enough. A Harvard Business Review article entitled “How to Find, Assess, and Hire the Modern Marketer” comments on the dexterity needed by the modern marketer in order to effectively perform their job. Not only do they need to think more like architects, engineers, and scientists, they also need to consider that marketing has adopted the following job titles: experience architect, data scientist, web engineer, web curator, marketing technologist, marketing analytics manager, and customer experience manager. According to the article, “marketers today are managing a customer life cycle, dialogue and relationship in an environment where almost everything is measurable. The ability to use data and analytics to thoroughly understand, personalize, and constantly improve that relationship is fundamental to their success.” The goal here is to build a team that embraces an analytical culture, which oddly enough is most valuable in creative fields where there is little emphasis placed on return on investment (ROI).

In order to cultivate an employee of this caliber, as a leader you need to (1) train themselves for additional roles, (2) encourage non-linear thinking. A non-linear thinker isn’t created in a cubicle. In fact, you’ll rarely find this sort of person at a cubicle. A non-linear thinker is creatively exploring – even when they’re not paid to. Since you can’t ‘make’ your employees do more than what is asked for them during their 9-5 hours, you can create an environment that promotes non-linearity by first understanding what stops employees from thinking statically in a mechanized manner that inhibits creative thought and function.