Ever heard of Benno Dorer?
I'll bet, for most of you, the answer is no. This is a common trait of true leaders – no ego, no desire to be in the limelight, no need for recognition. They just very quietly lead their companies to do great things, while leading from the shadows.
The Best Ideas Come from the Lunchroom, not the Boardroom!
This is an important point I've noticed throughout my career, that the people doing the work very often have the best ideas about how to do it better. They see what's actually happening every day as they do their work. As a result, their ideas are likely to work in the real world. Their ideas are always worth listening to. Occasionally some factor unknown to the worker makes her idea impractical – even so it will almost always have the seed of a concept that fits reality. Besides that, listening – TRULY listening – to your employees is one of the best things you can do to give them a sense that they are part of something bigger than themselves – a powerful motivator!
Of course, good ideas can come from leadership as well. When such an idea comes up, often it's possible to ask enough questions of an employee or an employee team that they hit on the idea during the discussion. If you can make that happen, the idea will be far more readily accepted by the employees than if they have the sense that it's being imposed on them by the leaders.
The most important thing in any exchange is to be sure the employee feels empowered, not oppressed. An oppressed employee is shorn of her self-esteem – made to feel like a slave, rather than a valued contributor to the company's results. In that condition he'll almost surely contribute little and, if he has any “gumption” at all, he'll probably move on to some place where his talents are appreciated.