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Defining the Role of Leadership in Innovation
“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat.” — Steve Jobs
There can be no organizational innovation without the involvement and full support of leadership. Individual employees can be creative, thinking up new things; and innovative, willing to put those things into practice, but without the support and guidance of leaders, innovation cannot come to fruition on an organizational level.
Innovation combines new ideas with the willingness to act on them.
As one of the main drivers of organizational innovation, intelligent leadership needs to focus on four core principles/leadership skills.
- Integrity and trust
- Agility and vision
- The courage to move quickly and exploit opportunities
These four leadership skills exist in a symbiotic relationship. They complement and support each other, providing a solid foundation for innovative leadership.
Integrity and Trust
The intelligent leader leads by example and models behaviors predicated upon organizational values. This sort of leadership is impossible without trust. And integrity forms the basis of trust.
Employees are keen to follow a leader who exhibits integrity in everything he or she says and does. As I have pointed out in several of my books, only a person of integrity can build genuine, lasting relationships.
A high-integrity leader makes use of the power of praise, genuinely supports others, and consistently prioritizes leadership development.
Integrity and trust are always essential, but these qualities are often seen and valued more by others during times of crisis; they are two of the main qualities that foster individual and organizational resilience. Leadership maturity is closely correlated with integrity.
Agility and Vision
According to William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs, leadership agility is the ability to anticipate and initiate change.
Leadership agility comprises four basic competencies that together create an actionable compass for your leadership development efforts.
- Context-setting agility is the ability to see initiatives and challenges as parts of a larger picture. Leaders who possess this competency also have an easier time defining and clarifying the outcomes they expect.
- Stakeholder agility allows leaders to draw support for their initiatives from key stakeholders, such as higher-ups.
- Self-leadership agility lets you see change as an opportunity to forward organizational goals as well as your own abilities to lead.
- Creative agility is the key to problem-solving. It lets you find creative ways of tackling problems effectively.
Innovative leaders possess a comprehensive, long-term vision of the future. Such leaders may already be contemplating opportunities their currently implemented innovations will create down the line.
The Courage to Move Quickly
In addition to the application of new ideas, innovation means commitment. Innovative leadership moves quickly upon recognizing opportunities and develops solutions to exploit those opportunities.
The effectiveness of innovation often hinges upon speed. Typically, every organization within a certain market segment either adopts innovation or they’ll wither away. But how quickly an organization adopts innovation can make all the difference too. Early adopters usually reap considerable benefits and retain a competitive edge over those who either can’t keep up or who are merely tagging along for the ride.
It takes courage to defeat resistance to change.
Innovative leaders are great at identifying opportunities as well as the resources they need to exploit such opportunities through innovation.
They understand what truly matters in the context of what they are looking to achieve. This keen sense of direction is contagious, and it readily trickles down to reports at all levels. It empowers employees leading to quality decision-making on their part and more effective problem-solving.
Insightful leaders also favor group collaboration, constructive feedback, and enthusiastic communication.
Are you looking to instill a culture of innovation in your organization? Check out my corporate culture services.