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The innovation leader: Behaviors to encourage

By Zac Charnecki 

Innovation is a process. It requires commitment to a journey and demands we disrupt what we know, make changes to what we’re doing and enable new ideas to flourish. This can be seen as good and bad.

The upside is desired, but the path may be uncomfortable. It is almost always hard to navigate with no guarantee of success. So, what separates those organizations that actively innovate from those that don’t and ultimately fall behind? They aren’t afraid of the journey. Bold and tenacious teams speak to a healthy, innovative culture, and, since leaders set the tone within an organization, it all starts with innovation leadership.

It’s so important for leaders to understand their role in building a culture of innovation and the steps they can take to encourage it. Innovation thrives within organizations that balance the factors promoting creativity. There must be structure, purpose, training and support … along with room for a little chaos.

There should be mechanisms to harvest quality ideas and control the flow of resources, while still supporting the freedom to explore and pursue different ways of doing things. That’s right, coloring outside the lines can be a good thing.

After many years observing people in different positions as they interact with processes and technology, I’ve observed key behaviors associated with innovative leaders who have helped drive success and done it in a way that inspires others. Traits that stand out:

  • Being fearless.
  • Consciously guarding negativity.
  • Showing support and empathy.
  • Committing to projects and teams.
  • Seeing the opportunities when we trip and fall.
  • Being firm without being closed-minded.

Being good leaders is something we all strive for. Leading well, while leading innovatively, is challenging. It’s also vital. On top of general well-balanced leadership skills, innovative leaders possess an insatiable hunger. Innovative leaders measure success and performance based on revenue, promotor scores and profitability, but are also driven to explore what’s possible. They bank on new ideas.

Innovative leaders also tend to view obstacles (even rules) as something merely to overcome (within reason and within the structure that allows for it, of course). That level of curiosity and that style of leadership is infectious, and good leaders demonstrate desired behaviors for others to emulate.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a good leader. What’s worse is their undesired behaviors can still spread to others. Too often, innovative activities become an arena of unhealthy ego and competition, and the negative impact from poor leadership here can be devastating to the development of a collaborative culture of creatives. Leaders should take great care to safeguard from this by not allowing anyone, even themselves, to fuel negativity.

Developing into an innovation leader will help you and your teams navigate a changing environment and succeed in moving your organization forward. I’ve shared a few traits I feel comprise innovation leadership, as this topic is one that I feel presents a great opportunity to talk tactics and seek feedback with others. With that, I hope to have sparked something within you: a change, a memory, a contradiction. How do you inspire innovation within your organization?

Zac Charnecki

Zac Charnecki
Director, Innovation and Transformation

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