9 Characteristics of Successful Innovation Leaders

We are finishing up a two-part series on innovation leaders. Innovation leadership skills go beyond the basic skills associated with managing people or processes. They are leadership styles to increase creativity, competency, and collaboration that result in innovations that contribute to the organization's success.

Innovation Leaders

The Challenge

The Harvard Business Review recently said, “A major paradox managers face is that the systems that enable success with today's model reinforce behaviors that are inconsistent with discovering tomorrow's model.” Today's rules and structures for organizations create innovation roadblocks. It's vital to appoint a leader with the characteristics to lead your innovation effort. Secondly, it's essential to support them with resources (people, time, and money) and give them space to work.

9 Characteristics of Successful Innovation Leaders

Let's look at the nine characteristics every successful innovation leader needs.

  1. Comfortable With Risk: An innovation leader must have risk tolerance and analyze potential outcomes to make the best decision.
  2. Effective Communication: Leaders need the ability to convey visions, command respect, and understand ideas' inherent risks and advantages.
  3. Remain Humble: Be humble and open to new ideas. This will help cultivate an innovative organization.
  4. Low Anxiety: Unnecessary stress depletes creativity. A leader with low anxiety will make their team feel comfortable and secure.
  5. The fifth characteristic is self-confidence, as innovation leaders constantly deal with unknowns. An innovation leader believes they'll succeed and stay positive.
  6. Oriented Towards Action: Innovation leaders feel energized by action and enjoy leading change that produces innovation.
  7. Active Collaborators: Proven ability to create a culture of trust, mutual respect, and shared aspiration of a mutual goal. Innovations that come from collaborative sharing can propel organizations to greater heights.
  8. Be a Rule Breaker: Innovation leaders understand that consistently following the rules can become rigid and put people in a rut. They seek to generate insight and knowledge through non-traditional ways, such as experimentation, free exploration, improvisation, and breaking the rules of doing something.
  9. Be a Keen Observer: To see new patterns and details. The ability to notice things that may have gone unnoticed helps innovation leaders make accurate assessments and figure out the best solution to a problem.


To know more about the characteristics of successful innovation leaders, listen to this week's show: 9 Characteristics of Successful Innovation Leaders

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One thought on “9 Characteristics of Successful Innovation Leaders

  1. Phil,
    I like your 9 characteristics of a successful innovation leader very much. But noticed you did not mention “critical thinking” which has similar traits to some in your list. But a key trait of critical thinking is asking the tough/important question(s) to expand knowledge of the topic/idea.

    Why have you left that off the list?