Innovation Leadership Style: Characteristics and Practices11 min read
Innovation is one of the most important things that an organization must do for survival. Hence, a company needs leaders who can reinforce the value of innovation in its daily activities.
In this article, you will learn more about innovation leadership and what it takes to effectively use it for the growth of the business.
What is innovation leadership?
Innovation leadership refers to a management technique that focuses on the integration of various leadership styles in an effort to increase creativity, competency, and collaboration within the workplace.
This leadership style is applied to guide and inspire employees in developing the skills they need to improve the organization’s innovation performance, particularly in the production of viable and strategically aligned ideas that can mold the company’s present and future success.
Why is innovation leadership important?
Innovation leadership is of utmost importance for every company because successful innovation begins with ideation — the phase where outstanding ideas are developed as the foundation of innovation success.
Considering how leadership can impact the productivity and efficiency of employees, managers have to go beyond cascading instructions. Traditionally, managers and employees observe a relationship that’s characterized by obedience and authority.
Innovation leadership goes beyond this setup in the sense that innovative leaders are open to the suggestions of their employees, and are more than willing to offer constructive feedback. With innovation leadership, innovation culture is built, fostered, and practiced.
Business leaders combine proven methodologies to increase the engagement, knowledge, and skills of their teams to enhance the organization’s innovation performance. They are smart in making decisions, particularly when the company’s innovation efforts are at stake.
They plan and study every step of the innovation process carefully, and they provide the resources their employees need to bring their innovative ideas to life.
Innovative business leaders also consider trends in formulating significant strategies for the company’s future products and services. They keep everyone on board in reinforcing the changes that are necessary for the organization to thrive in its respective industry.
What are the characteristics of innovation leadership?
Nowadays, it is vital for businesses to continuously innovate. Innovation helps organizations enhance their competitive advantage, and it helps them ensure continued success. Hence, innovation leadership is valuable as it inspires, supports, and influences creative efforts.
Without it, companies would have a hard time surviving a dynamic marketplace.
Here are seven attributes that define innovation leadership:
1. Innovation leadership promotes creativity.
An innovation leader understands that exceptional results require creativity to happen. This is the reason why management that practices innovation leadership goes beyond solutions that are normally practiced by many.
They rise above conventional boundaries, and they motivate their employees to explore ambitious ideas. They inspire employees to generate new perspectives and allow them to discuss them thoroughly for improvement.
As this kind of leadership focuses on innovation, managers allow their subordinates to explore their creative sides by launching idea challenges and other competitions that may stimulate creative processes and teamwork.
2. Innovation leadership welcomes and provides feedback.
In instances where team members generate new ideas, innovation managers are open to discuss these concepts even further to see if they are feasible, and in what manner they can be implemented effectively. They also provide truthful, specific, and actionable feedback.
In return, they are also receptive to honest opinions. They understand that the readiness to accept feedback is essential in solving issues and other challenges that may hinder the innovation performance of the business.
They believe in the value of collective work, that the thoughts of their employees matter, and that giving and receiving feedback is a significant component of the organization’s long-term success.
3. Innovation leadership knows what risks are worth taking.
Although innovation leadership supports creativity, innovation managers know that free-flowing creativity also comes with several risks. Business leaders that aim to improve innovation performance possess high-risk tolerance.
They are very careful and meticulous in studying every possible angle that comes with a situation. They also understand that progress involves risks, yet they believe that these risks can also serve as opportunities to learn more about their chosen fields.
Above all, they are well aware of the possible risks that come with putting a new idea into practice. However, these innovation leaders have already assessed every possible setback, and have readily prepared to address all of it.
4. Innovation leadership pays attention to detail.
Innovation managers believe that even the tiniest details matter when it comes to the implementation of innovation projects. The smallest mistakes can negatively impact the success of the innovation process while taking accurate baby steps can help them do things right.
Tasks and responsibilities performed without attention to detail can result in ineffectiveness. Employees that are not keen on picking up information and timelines can seriously damage the company’s innovation portfolio.
When this happens, time and resources are lost. Hence, innovation leaders like to do things right the first time by having a thorough and comprehensive view of the entire project. They stay task-oriented, time-driven, and accountable in accomplishing projects on time.
5. Innovation leadership knows that dullness hardly sparks innovation.
Traditional thinking and routine work can put people in a rut. For plenty of reasons, the will and drive of innovation teams can get stale sometimes.
However, for innovation managers, it is especially in these instances that they understand the need to look for methods that would help their employees generate a fresh wave of knowledge and insight.
They try to incorporate fun in innovation by using software with built-in gamification features to anonymously share ideas or apply non-traditional methods like experimentation and rapid prototyping.
6. Innovation leadership believes in the power of collaboration.
Creative insights are perceived when people from different backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences work together with an intent to use innovation as a method of bringing the organization to greater heights.
Because of this, innovation leaders do not necessarily require complete harmony. On the contrary, they support collaborative arguments to cover all possible situations and generate ideal solutions for every challenge that the innovation may encounter along the way.
They aim to make innovation as smooth as possible by combining different skills and expertise that the company can use as assets in developing new concepts, products, and services that could help them infiltrate new markets in the future.
Innovation managers have internalized innovation as an attitude. They like to cultivate innovation as a normal part of the organization’s daily processes. With them, every employee is encouraged to generate and gather ideas that can lead to revolutionary changes.
Under their supervision, a culture of continuous innovation and improvement is prioritized. They believe that the best innovations come from organizations that include everyone regardless of race, fortes, experiences, and even background.
They appoint innovation committees with different roles and responsibilities to execute a systematic innovation workflow. Lastly, good innovation leadership persuades teams to work together to achieve success by engaging and participating in the innovation activities of the enterprise.
How to practice innovation leadership?
These are the five ways business leaders can practice innovation leadership:
Establish psychological safety within the workplace. Employees who feel psychologically safe tend to share more ideas. They feel free to speak their mind, show their creative side, and explore more risks and opportunities.
Reduce the barriers to experimentation. Make it easy for your team to try out new concepts. Provide them with idea challenges and allow them to try out their ideas, even on a small scale.
Create an effective communication system. Communication plays a vital role in innovation. Ensure that instructions, strategies, and expectations are all disseminated properly. Moreover, make sure to keep information flowing rapidly and openly.
Foster an environment of diversity. Encourage people to work well with one another despite their differences, because disparate perspectives can significantly contribute to solving challenges and ensuring great outcomes.
Give emphasis on the value of teamwork. Inspire your employees to share their opinions, no more how contradicting their thoughts may be with that of their colleagues. Creative conflicts can help you see the pros and the cons of putting concepts to life.
The Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Innovation Leadership
Develop a clear vision. Your vision will serve as the starting point of your objectives and strategic plans for innovation.
Create an attractive and ambitious innovation strategy. Articulate these innovation strategies and align your innovation efforts with them.
Stimulate and inspire innovation in your team. Encourage them to share their ideas. Reward positive results.
Establish an innovation mindset. Train your employees to overcome barriers and generate disruptive products, processes, and services.
Do not do innovation projects by yourself. Innovation is not a one-man process. Collaborate with your employees and encourage them to actively participate in it.
Manage external dependencies. Control assets and other innovation activities that involve external parties for a smooth-sailing process.
Improve your team’s innovation skillset. Provide your employees with innovation-related training and activities to sharpen their innovation skills.
Provide your employees with the right innovation tools. Identify what tools you need to make your innovation a success.
Get rid of the fuzziness. Avoid fuzziness in innovation by ensuring that your innovation system observes the six steps of the innovation framework.
Establish a uniform way of working. Everyone must be on board in the innovation process from start to end. Work on every innovation phase together.
Innovation leadership helps in ensuring the innovation success of the company. It celebrates an employee’s creativity, improves an organization’s competency, and encourages collaboration among departments regardless of differences in knowledge and expertise.