Innovative leadership depends on creative thinking and the ability to generate big ideas, motivate the people around them and turn these ideas into a reality.
The world of work is one of constant change and development. Innovation is a core driver of growth and performance: in order to thrive, organisations require their leaders to have the skills, the mind-set and the tools to motivate their teams and bring them together in order to create opportunities, solve problems, and bring ideas to life.
An innovative leader is a creative thinker, someone who has big ideas and can motivate the people around them to turn these ideas into a reality. The ideas themselves actually do not have to come directly from them, an innovative leader will recognise a good idea and will help to devise the way for that idea to become a reality. They know how best to work with individuals and to nurture and develop ideas. They have the ability to harness creativity and provide the space and freedom to think inventively in order to take new steps towards developing a better business.
What does leading through innovation look like?
Innovative leadership has 2 fundamental qualities:
- The ability to bring new thinking and actions to the way you lead and manage your work.
- Creating an effective workplace where others can apply their innovative thinking to solve problems and develop new ideas.
The way leaders behave sends strong signals to their employees. Innovative leadership involves the ability to create a culture of trust and transparency. Communication is vital to provide everyone with relevant information, to share a vision to create a sense of enthusiasm, and to strive towards a common goal. Creating a positive, open and trusting culture and having confidence in your team enables them to feel comfortable in sharing their ideas. Innovative leadership is nurturing the talent in your team to create an accessible, collaborative environment where all new ideas can be discussed and evaluated.
When innovation is a tangible business value, you create a culture where employees feel they have a certain autonomy to think independently and find new ways to solve problems. Innovative leaders are emotionally intelligent people. They have strong self-awareness and can manage their own ego which makes them skilful in managing situations and empower others in return.
Applying innovative thinking to your business challenges is essential when creating an innovative organisational response to new goals or change. Equally essential is to develop a culture of innovation where others can apply their own innovative thinking to solve problems and develop new ideas.
How can I be an innovative leader?
Pay attention. This is the ability to see the unseen, delving deeply into a situation and looking for new details or patterns. This enables you to consider different points of view and to look at issues from a new perspective.
Communication. To be an innovative leader you need a strong imagination and the accompanying communication skills to explain your vision and how to execute it. You need to show support and confidence in the work and contributions of others, nurturing and developing creative people in your organisation.
Collaboration is key. An effective team is one that can work together to achieve your goal. You need a team surrounding you who can add to the vision, develop it and make it stronger. You need to have confidence that your team will be creative and deliver, without you having to manage every part of the process. Often new ideas spawn others – bringing individuals together helps to increase the pool of creativity and the innovation of ideas and products.
Lead by example. The innovative leader is an inspirational leader who generates enthusiasm which enables others to buy in to the idea with their own resources to make it happen. They encourage creativity in others through motivation and inspiration.
Failure IS an option. The innovative leader is able to recognise when a project is not working and the development of their idea should be stopped so that everyone’s energy, time and resources can be better invested elsewhere.
Be the expert. For teams to believe and trust in an innovative leader they need to see that person is an expert in their field.
Take calculated risks. Innovative leaders don’t let a fear of failure hold them back when they are striving for success. You must be willing to take action on ideas once you have taken an informed decision. You are agile enough to take confident and measured decisions and run with ideas if they are good ones.
Innovation often derives from recognising problems and finding ways to address them. Seeking out solutions to the smaller issues is no less innovative than those of larger ones.
Put the time and resources into creativity. An environment where employees can think creatively can radically improve levels of innovation in a business. If expectations are realistic and free from time pressures, and the resources are available, then individuals are free to develop their own innovative thinking and to develop the results accordingly.
Every successful business innovation starts with the germ of a good idea. Developing stand-out ideas is the base for innovative success. Today’s leaders need to think differently and think ahead about tomorrow’s products/services, developing new business models along the way. The Holst Creative Series and Leader Series have a range of workshops to develop creative thinking and innovation, including Lateral Thinking and Six Thinking Hats® from Dr Edward de Bono.
The flowprofiler® family of assessments helps organisations to really know their people and how to blend their strengths into an innovative and productive environment.