Why Innovative Leadership Can Help You Surmount Challenges

Innovative LeadershipToday’s post is by Maureen Metcalf – a thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.  You can learn more about her at the end of this post.  Here’s Maureen:

Are your leadership actions impeding innovation?  Are your change initiatives successfully implemented and delivering the benefits you expected?  How is YOUR behavior impacting their ability to delivery results?

Many traditional leaders spend more time perfecting their golf swings than they do improving their ability to lead in this current environment.  The most successful leaders continue to improve their leadership skills including the level of self-knowledge and introspection that provides a feedback loop for ongoing improvement.

Innovative leadership is the type of leadership that allows already successful leaders to raise the bar on their performance and the performance of their organizations.

An innovative leader is defined as someone who consistently delivers results using the following:

  • Strategic leadership that inspires individual goals and organizations vision and cultures;
  • Tactical leadership that influences an individual’s actions and the organizations systems and processes.
  • Holistic Leadership that aligns all key dimensions:  Individual, culture, action and systems.

While others differentiate leadership from management this definition includes both because, to fully implement innovative change, the organizational leaders need to both set the strategy and be sufficiently involved in the tactics to ensure innovation and changes happen.  This does not mean micro managing – it means an awareness and involvement in all elements of the innovation and change process. This includes continually growing and evolving leadership capacity and actions, leading and implementing culture and system changes within the organization.

Let’s look at an example of a leader who faced a change she had not previously faced in her business.

She runs Working Partners, an organization focusing on creating drug free workplaces.  She built a strong successful business and yet, external pressures changed her market.  The government provided many of these services at a lower cost.  Being a very innovative leader, she worked with her immediate team and sought external input on possible options.

As of this writing, she is launching multiple pilot projects that will enhance and/or change her company and its offerings.  They will take the results of the pilots and determine how to refine the course of the business to ensure long term organizational success and customer service.

It is important to note that some of these pilots reflect small changes based on distribution channel and methods of delivery.  Others seem radical and include significant expansion of the organization’s mission.  Because the founder, Dee Mason, is proactive and open to exploring a broad range of changes, she will find a series of innovations that allow the organization to thrive.  Part of her success in making significant change will include looking at the entire system to make holistic changes including how she herself leads the organization.  This is one of the qualities that is unique to innovative leaders, they are continually looking at who they are in the context of the organization and they continue to change and grow as they change their organizations.

What are specific qualities that differentiate an innovative leader from a traditional leader? In our time of rapid business, social and ecological change, a successful leader is a leader who can continually:

  • Clarify and effectively articulate vision
  • Link that vision to attainable strategic initiatives
  • Develop themselves and influence the development of other leaders
  • Build effective teams by helping colleagues enact their own leadership strengths
  • Cultivate alliances and partnerships
  • Anticipate and respond to both challenges and opportunities aggressively
  • Develop robust and resilient solutions
  • Develop and test hypothesis like a scientist
  • Measure, learn, and refine on an ongoing basis

To further illustrate some of the qualities of innovative leadership, we offer this comparison between traditional leadership and innovative leadership:

Traditional: Leader is guided primarily by desire for personal success and peripherally by organizational success.

Innovative: Leader is humbly guided by a more altruistic vision of success based on both performance and the value of the company’s positive impact.

Traditional: Leadership decision style “monarchical;” leader has all the answers.

Innovative: Leader leverages team for answers as part of the  decision-making process.

Traditional: Leader picks a course in “black/white” manner; tends to dogmatically stay  the course.

Innovative: Leader perceives and behaves like a scientist: continually measuring and testing for improvement and exploring new models and approaches.

Traditional: Leader focuses on being technically correct and in charge.

Innovative: Leader is continually learning and developing self and others

We keep hearing that the world is changing and it is.  The question for you is what will you do to lead the thinking and changes in these times rather than talking about how tough it is?  Will you be an innovator or a barrier to innovation?  The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook provides easy to use tools and reflection questions that lead you through a six step process to become a more innovative leader.

– Maureen Metcalf is the president of Metcalf & Associates – a management consulting, and leadership development firm dedicated to helping leaders, their management teams, and their organizations implement the innovative leadership practices necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing environment.  Included in these offerings is speaking, training, coaching, team building, and organizational transformation.  Her book, Innovative Leadership Fieldbook can be purchased on Amazon.

Photo credit: opensourceway

One Response to “Why Innovative Leadership Can Help You Surmount Challenges”

  1. Mike Davis says:

    I agree with Maureen’s 5th paragraph where she writes and i quote: “While others differentiate leadership from management this definition includes both because, to fully implement innovative change, the organizational leaders need to both set the strategy and be sufficiently involved in the tactics to ensure innovation and changes happen”
    Because… a good leader of course has to be able to have a good ‘WAY’ of managing.. for example.. and the one I use is ‘The Toyota Way’ based on my long-term experience with toyota manufacturing. In the ‘Toyota Way’ there are techniques; call them templates, rules, tips, “visual control”, lean and so on. Such a great system is now being adopted by the Aerospace Industry here in Canada and by our Health Ministry here in Quebec, Canada. More at :
    Mike Davis, Management Methods Advisor,
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    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

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