In these current economic conditions, many of you have been charged with helping grow the business. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal took a look at mid-level managers who have achieved above-average organic growth in established organizations and markets.

Through three years of testing and interviews, the research team came up with a list of attributes that distinguish growth leaders from the average manager.

  • Growth leaders are life-long learners. These managers had varied experiences early in their careers that gave them the advantage of seeing problems and seeking solutions that their peers may have missed. By stepping outside of the proverbial “box,” these acquired experiences helped the managers launch their initiatives.

  • “Growth is all about uncertainty and how to work with it,” states the Wall Street Journal article. By not completely relying on data as a way to predict and plan, growth leaders have a leg up on other managers. Going beyond data, they work with suppliers and customers to develop ideas.

  • Growth leaders minimize risks. They expect some loss in new initiatives which allows them to pursue opportunities without sinking more into it than they can afford to lose. Initiatives often are launched in small ways that later can be expanded when proved successful. Because they cause-correct in real time, growth leaders also know when it’s time to walk away from a project.

  • Growth is about how to make your customers’ lives better. Gathering data about customers is important but remember that data analysis is based on knowledge from the past and isn’t necessarily a good prediction of the future. The managers in the study personally sought out detailed knowledge about individual customers. This knowledge helped the managers determine where the customer places the most importance in terms of products and services.

  • Growth leaders are tough but fair. They acquire team members only with the necessary skills and move people into positions that capitalize on their strengths. They let go of those who aren’t a fit.

  • Rather than fight corporate policies and seek company support, growth leaders save their energy for the growth of their business. Rather than ask for permission, growth leaders tend to ask for forgiveness.

    Are you a growth leader? Share your experiences with me at [email protected] or online at

    To meet and learn from growth leaders, attend the Business Innovation Conference, September 8 to 10, in Naperville, IL. The Business Innovation Conference is the first conference bringing academia, government and business together to explore and learn the science of innovation, and accelerate performance through innovation. Exchange your knowledge, experience and excitement with innovators like yourself. For more information, or to register, visit