While innovation leaders have the same core behaviors all great leaders have, they carry crucial additional behaviors. Let’s discuss the leadership behaviors for innovation leaders, inspired by an article on Forbes by Jack Zenger. Applied to the topic is my own forty years of experience in the innovation space. These behaviors are foundational for innovation leadership success.
Fundamentals of Any Leadership Activity
Let’s start with the two fundamentals of any leadership activity. Every leader is there to bring together the right people to achieve an objective. Typically, a leader brings in people with different skills and abilities like finance and software engineering. When it comes to innovation, you’re bringing in people with different perspectives and thinking styles. It is critical to understand how to build teams to generate the next great idea.
The following fundamental comes from a quote I often use, “Leaders deserve the teams they get based on the worst actions they allow other team members to get away with.” If you allow your team members to get away with things like disrespect or not being a team player, it will infiltrate the rest of your team. The negative result of this will be your fault as a leader.
9 Leadership Behaviors for Innovation Leaders
For the first behavior, innovation leaders have a vision of the future, not just the goals of the present. You have to look at both the short and long-term goals and convey a vision that gets people excited. Secondly, innovation leaders establish trust in their team. Building trust is paramount when it comes to innovation. The need for trust is because of how risky and scary innovation can be. Without it, a team will not take the risk of putting their ideas out there.
Thirdly, innovation leaders challenge the status quo, refusing to rely on what is safe and comfortable. As an innovation leader, you need to try new things instead of sticking to the same processes. For the fourth behavior, innovation leaders are curious. They ask intelligent, strategic, thoughtful, and targeted questions to gather input. Spending the extra time to craft better questions will lead to uncovering many ideas. They also listen carefully to responses to questions.
For the fifth behavior, innovation leaders set aspirational goals or BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). In this position, expect the delivery of breakthrough achievements and ideas. It is essential to challenge your team to do better by giving more autonomy. If you are a micromanager, either break that habit or don’t be an innovation leader.
Behaviors Six through Nine
The sixth innovation leadership behavior is that innovation leaders move quickly. Studies have shown a clear correlation between the speed of execution and the degree of innovation. The 10% fastest leaders were also in the top percentile of innovation effectiveness. The seventh behavior is that innovation leaders crave information. They need input and things where they can let their conscience work. For me, I am always reading blogs, magazines, books, etc. I find that the things I read help me connect dots to things that I come across at different times.
The eighth behavior is that innovation leaders excel at teamwork. They put their self-interest to the side and focus on creating collaboration. One challenge I’ve seen within organizations is competition between different groups. Avoid unnecessary competition needs to have success as an organization.
The ninth behavior is that innovation leaders value diversity and inclusion. If everyone on your team acts, thinks, and has the same background as you, you will have the same thinking style. Similar viewpoints lead to the danger of groupthink, where everyone is thinking and doing the same thing. Differing opinions fuel the creative process.
To know more about leadership behaviors, listen to this week's show: 9 Leadership Behaviors for Innovation Leaders.