How Innovation can Improve Your Leadership

Maureen MetcalfToday’s post is by Maureen Metcalf – a thoughtLEADERS instructor and author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook (which was the winner of Best Business Reference Book and a finalist in Best Business Book in the 2012 International Book Awards).  You can learn more about her at the end of this post.  Here’s Maureen:

As leaders, we innovate to improve our products and technology. We now have designer dogs and designer foods – we are surrounded by innovation. We can become overwhelmed with the number of innovations to the point that a simple trip to the store to buy “tennis shoes” no longer means going to the shoe aisle – now we go to a sporting goods store and have an entire section the size of a small shopping mall.

So, as you lead in the world of dramatic ongoing change an innovation, how do you manage the pace and the complexity? How do you maintain your effectiveness as a leader?

Let’s look at Bill, the CIO of a large company. He was at the top of his game when he took a job five years ago. He was recruited and enticed to leave his former company. Fast forward to today, he is now struggling to maintain his job. He is a fallen super hero. No more cape and attitude. Now he needs to rebuild the edge he lost.

He was so focused on doing the job and doing it well that he stopped developing. He was highly dedicated to the success of his company but overlooked the fact that doing the job is not enough. He needed to continue to develop his leadership skills.

If you are a world class athlete, you would not work out until you won the Olympics then stop working out until the next Olympics trials then be surprised that you “lost your edge.” Why as a leader would you expect to be the top of your game without continued focus? Test yourself to see if you have lost your edge:

– Do you have a sense of life purpose and can you connect it with the work you do?
– Do you have a clear set of principles that guide your judgment and behaviors?
– Do you have clear career and personal goals?
– How do you deal with a high degree of complexity and make key decisions with limited information?
– Do you identify unconventional solutions to solve problems?
– Do you monitor your emotional reactions and manage behaviors so they promote employee engagement and strong professional partnerships and alliances?
– Have you developed the habits and personal discipline required to maintain personal resilience?
– Have you aligned your leadership behaviors with the culture and systems to maximize results?
– Do you have strong friendships to help you during challenging times?
– Do you behave in ways that are both aligned with the organization’s expectations and supportive of organizational and personal success?

If you did not answer yes to most of these questions, then you have some work to do. It is time for you to begin innovating around how you lead. Here are some recommendations to help you innovate to improve yourself as a leader at the same rate your company innovates so you remain effective.

– Update your goals and maxims and review them regularly
– Stay current on leadership trends and skills
– Evaluate your progress against your goals and your peers
– Create a development plan and practices or drills to build your skills
– Build a culture of development among your colleagues
– Select an accountability partner or coach to push and reinforce your progress

As you change your mindset and behavior to incorporate a continual practice of leadership development, you will improve your personal success and the success of your organization. You also reduce the risk of becoming obsolete and needing to build skills after losing a job.

Bob learned that he needed to update his skills in sufficient time to correct course and regain his edge. He worked with a coach to regain his edge then started a “maintenance” program of checking in to identify his next round of goals and practices. Those changes put him back on the right track.

Innovative Leadership FieldbookAre you considering improving your ability to be an innovative leader? If so, take the Innovative Leadership Assessment to determine where your opportunities are. If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.

Maureen Metcalf at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Maureen is the President of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., bringing 26 years of business experience to the table as she helps professionals grow well beyond their own expectations. She is recognized as a thought leader who demonstrates strategic vision coupled with the ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth and sustainability.  Her work is focused on helping leaders innovate how they lead while transforming their organizations. She’s also a member of the thoughtLEADERS team. Read more of her work on her blog.

3 Responses to “How Innovation can Improve Your Leadership”

  1. Brian Ahearn says:

    Great points Maureen. I especially like the Olympian anaology. For some reason most business people fail to recognize the need to keep growing and improving despite the fact that they compete until they retire.


  2. Maureen, fantastic questions and excellent suggestions. I just finished readingThe Accidental Creative which aligns these skill set development techniques in the creative industry very well.

    I agree that there is always work to be done and it is very, very easy to simply perform and forget to build your skills. It takes a bit of planning and some resolve to manage that which is something that as a management professional I am now working on.

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