How often have you seen organizations launch an innovative product with minimal impact because the leader running the initiative is stuck in an outdated mindset? The goal of Innovative Leadership is to help leaders develop innovative thinking and practices that align all areas of the business and are at least as forward thinking as the products and processes they are trying to implement.
As you think about the opposite of innovative leadership and consider why it might be useful for your organizaiton, think about an improvement or change you were excited about and the organization’s leadership thinking and behavior slowed the progress.
How, I would like to give an example of innovative leadership. A group of executives left a mid-size traditional business to start a technology company. They are now on plan to deliver the technology services and just landed their first international client. The leaders, who started the company, demonstrated innovative leadership qualities over the next year by launching an offering they believed in, hiring innovative people, and creating a culture and systems that supported the new offering. The new company, Haladon Technologies, Inc is successful on all traditional business measures from financial, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and being a socially conscious business partner.
What did they do that the parent company did not? They practiced innovative leadership. Successful, sustainable innovation starts with the leaders taking an innovative approach to leadership as well as services, products and business processes.
We define innovative leadership as:
- Strategic leadership that inspires individual goals and organizations vision and cultures;
- Tactical leadership that influences an individual’s actions and the organizations systems.
- Holistic Leadership that aligns all key dimensions: Individual, cultural, behavioral and systematic.
Despite their collective importance, conventional applications of leadership and innovation have often proved elusive and even problematic in real-world scenarios. For example: if the leadership team of a struggling organization drives initiatives that focus solely on innovative changes to incentives, products, and services—without also advancing strategic purpose and team effectiveness—they will still miss the vast potential to create meaningful growth. Productivity and system improvements are undoubtedly critical, but how employees engage with their work experience is equally vital. Implementing innovation in the areas of products and services without also addressing the team environment and support of company culture can often result in lop-sided decision making and short-sighted leadership.
Knowing that the future of organizations is irreversibly tied to a world of erratic change, you can no longer afford to improve your systems and offerings without equally advancing your capacity for leadership. Qualities such as empathy and the ability to inspire cultural alignment offer your organization significant merit, and need to be implemented as shrewdly as strategic planning.
Innovative leadership requires you to transform the way you perceive others, your businesses and yourself as a leader. By vigorously looking into your own experience—including motivations, inclinations, interpersonal skills and proficiencies—you can optimize your effectiveness in ways that are deeply resonate with your work. It is important to balance the technical and functional skills you have acquired with meaningful introspection, all the while setting the stage for further growth. In essence, you discover how to strategically and tactically innovate the way you perform every part of your business.
Innovative leadership is inspiring strategy and influencing implementation through an explicit balancing of four core dimensions: Individual, cultural, behavioral and systematic.
Are you considering improving your ability to be an innovative leader? If so, take this free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to determine where you fall on the innovative leadership scale. If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. Metcalf & Associates offers assessments, coaching and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative.
By Maureen Metcalf & Mark Palmer