What It Takes to Be an Innovative Leader

Man jumping in the air with a laptop.

Leading any endeavor can be a challenge, and leading innovation can be an even bigger challenge. Fortunately, the values that make a good leader dovetail well with being an innovative one.

A Positive Attitude

Having an optimistic approach to your industry is fundamental to proper leadership, and it’s also key to innovation. After all, innovation works on the assumption that you can make the world better, in small and large ways, and being positive in your approach helps drive innovation. It also helps overcome setbacks, which can be a tough challenge when innovating.

A Motivating Approach

A good leader, in innovation and elsewhere, is good at motivating teams. This isn’t just getting in front of them and delivering a rousing speech; it’s about listening to their ideas and concerns and encouraging them to invent new ways to approach them. If team members know they can come in your door and walk out with encouragement and good direction, they’ll get more done, and be more inventive while doing it.

Clear, Flexible Thinking

Balancing a positive attitude is clear, flexible thinking. Wanting to change the world is one thing, but to do so will take a host of smaller steps. Those steps should both be logical and doable for the people you’re leading,  while still leaving room to shift as new information becomes available. Perhaps one step is so successful you have to change the whole plan; perhaps one is more of a challenge than expected. Similarly, the metrics and expectations of each step should be clear and fair. Employees should know what they’re expected to deliver and know that they can ask for changes if needed.

Team of colleagues working together and smiling.

A Challenge-Seeking Mentality

Few leaders are happy resting on their laurels, and even in staid, quiet industries, you’ll find leadership tends to seek out challenges. Innovation is a good way to meet this leadership need, and it’s also a good way to motivate employees and keep them from becoming complacent.

A Sensible Appetite For Risk

Any good leader has an appetite for risk that’s moderated by thinking through the possible results. It’s rare that it’s necessary, let alone wise, to bet the entire company on one innovation. However, it’s often crucial to a company’s future to spend more on research and development and to back bold ideas from its employees. At the same time, not all gambles pay off, and once you reach a certain point with a risk, you should be able to pull the plug.

A Love of Collaboration

The myth of the lone innovator in a garage changing the world is precisely that, a myth. Even if the idea originates with and is polished by a lone genius, that genius still needs to work with a host of people to get the idea out into the world and in front of customers. A collaborative mindset encourages everyone to pitch in on ideas, brainstorming, and execution and helps bring every stakeholder to the table to anticipate challenges and risks.

Leading is a challenge, no matter what the industry and no matter what the innovation you’re seeking. To learn more about innovation leadership, join our newsletter today! 

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