Innovative leadership is about being someone who has made this mental shift. It also means giving others the latitude and encouragement they need to do the same. The payoff is an organizational shift away from resistance to change and the tendency to just hunker down, to a much more engaged sense of, “I’m ready world, give me your best shot.”
What is it about attempts at creativity and discovery that so frequently prompt us to turn up our noses and sniff, “Well that’s not really new.” As if to say that if it’s not a world class breakthrough, it simply doesn’t qualify. We don’t do that with other skills and behaviors.
Are you taking personal risks? Is your organization willing to take them? Innovation requires experimentation and experimentation requires that we risk failure. It can be scary but it’s necessary. Otherwise, we’re just confirming (or rationalizing) what we already think we know and that only takes us where we’ve already been.
What are you doing to make sure you catch the coming wave of innovation in your business? What are your competitors soon going to be doing that you’d better be doing too? Such trends can be extremely difficult to predict but when they hit you have to be ready for them.
Despite a lot of talk about so-called enlightened leadership, the reigning cultural norms are still to conform, follow the program, and don’t question authority. Unfortunately many of our most time-honored management practices are a sure way to undermine innovation.
If someone is in a position of authority and nothing is changing, then all they’re really doing is command and control. That may be management but it’s not really leadership.
Without a robust and candid exchange of information, no one has reliable feedback. No one is in a position to put all the pieces together and accurately identify strengths and weaknesses. No one can fully measure performance good or bad and identify opportunities for improvement.
Do you lead a company, a division, or a team that seems to have a knack for solving problems—or do most of them end up on your desk? Do you have employees who come to you with their proposed solutions—or just their challenges? Do managers in your company celebrate their successes—or whine about failures (usually of someone else)?
Being a team player in an innovation culture doesn’t mean playing along to get along; it means asking the tough questions and carefully considering the questions raised by others. It means challenging the sacred cows and unwritten assumptions that too often impede progress. It means making connections for the sake of making connections, because that’s the essence of creativity and no one can predict what new insights might result. Sometimes, it even means courageously challenging authority, when there’s a legitimate reason to do so.