Management must embrace the evolution of their role, from reactive solutions to proactive innovative leadership

It is fairly well-established that we’re in an age where creativity and innovation are absolutely vital for organizations to survive and thrive; if you don’t find new and unique ways to add value to customers the business is dead in the water.  Competition is fierce and competitors will find what the market demands and provide that value at a cost to your own organization.

The key to driving innovation is finding leaders who aren’t afraid to take chances on establishing a process that nourishes every employee, at every level.  There is a need for leaders who understand their team’s goal and the role in which they play to achieve that goal. 

Innovative leaders are instrumental to organizational growth

Senior-level employees are often labeled as leaders within their organizations; there is an expectation that they’re aware of all the business’s problems and equipped to address them quickly and efficiently. 

Innovative leaders go beyond this responsibility, they have in mind the major challenges of the organization but aren’t too quick to jump into solutions.  Their job isn’t just to evaluate the end result but to help ensure that the process is continuous, met with open-mindedness, and allows individuals to move forwards and figure out ways to implement new ideas.

light bulb representing a new idea with many connected colored strings working in collaboration

Part of that is being able to delegate the finding and solving of organizational challenges and empowering subordinates to collaborate without judgment.  When everyone feels included in the process, the possibility of finding new and unexpected ways to create value for the organization becomes the norm.

It all starts with leadership.  Even if Senior Level management is currently struggling to nourish creativity,  they have the ability to learn how to innovate and ultimately lead innovative teams.  

Common characteristics of Senior-Level Innovative Leaders

  • Listen generously
  • Defer judgment, they entertain the idea mentally before responding or making comments
  • Asks clarifying questions to be certain they understand
  • Open to a variety of input and information, not just what impacts them
  • Actively thinks and considers why the things that are happening are, why they’re being experienced and is able to admit (while surrounded by a sea of ever-present immediate problems and challenges) that these might be symptoms and ask what is really going on? What’s outside of my everyday view?
  • Has a vision of what could be, has a greater depth and appreciation of what is important to the business
  • Is in tune with many different aspects of the world around them and can say “I don’t know where I’m going to find the next big idea, but I’m open to looking for it”

Innovative leaders can have all the right intentions and be ready to implement the creative process but, as often happens, internal roadblocks can interfere.  An organization with an overly strong culture that values short-term goals can greatly impact the ability for innovation to thrive.

Senior Leader holding a highlighter looking at agenda filled with to-do’s

With so much to do, Senior Leaders have a hard time prioritizing what needs to be addressed first, they get caught doing too many things in an attempt to just get it done.  It’s like learned helplessness; an acceptance that their job is like being on a hamster wheel and they can’t get off (especially in production or operations) and the organization is left scrambling to always try and catch up instead of getting ahead.  

Other challenges Innovative Leaders face

  • an organizational culture that resists or avoids change, they refuse to try anything new until it is old  
  • Coworkers or Executives who want proof before investing in a new idea
  • One person who disagrees or judges can destroy a potentially innovative idea

In spite of the challenges within an established business, true innovative leaders will continue to advocate for change. They will make it clear to everyone involved that the goal is to accomplish something new and novel.  In doing so, innovative leaders will provide the process and skills to synchronize different mindsets, enabling them to think better together.

series of images going up stairs that represent a process to innovation

The first step in seeking innovation is to acknowledge that you and/or your team or business lack a process of innovation.  Once you see this challenge, you can begin to evolve the organizational culture to focus on possible gains that could be made with any new opportunity or problem; with the outlook that finding one problem will lead to possibilities.  Refocusing the mentality from worrying about losses and bad ideas to the perception of gains and opportunities.

Adopting an opportunistic philosophy in relation to organizational challenges can be the catalyst for an innovative leader to initiate positive change.  If they can get others to defer judgment and consciously adopt a process that values different ways of thinking, they will trailblaze a path to innovative growth and endless organizational possibilities.

Innovative thinking starts with you.  CLICK HERE to learn how.