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What’s The Difference Between Leading Innovation And Leading FOR Innovation? Which One Is More Effective And Why?

Dr Irena Yashin-Shaw PHD - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Leaders who have come through my innovation programs are very familiar with that question and the many reasons why leading FOR innovation is the holy grail of leadership.

It is all well and good to be the leader who drives innovation, who provides the passion, the energy and the know-how to implement innovation in the workplace. It can also be a wonderful ego boost to be seen as the champion of innovation – the ‘go to’ person who makes innovation happen. However no matter how committed to innovation one might be as a leader – eventually you will burn out or lose focus or momentum if you are doing it on your own.

The real key to embedding innovation in your workplace is to create the environment in which innovation can flourish. That way innovation becomes a natural part of the life of the organisation or team. It has its own momentum and energy so that positive change and value-adding entrepreneurialism happens effortlessly. Such an environment provides the opportunity for EVERYONE to participate in the innovation imperative.

Creating an environment like this requires three qualities in a leader.

  1. The preparedness to relinquish ‘control’ and share the leadership responsibilities with team members.

    Relinquishing control is not about promoting chaos. It is about knowing the capabilities of your people and inviting participation. Some leaders are uncomfortable with this because they feel that it is an abdication of their responsibilities; others because it does not bring enough personal ‘glory’. Jim Collins (author of Good to Great ) identifies the highest form of leadership as Level Five. This is where leaders are not driven by ego but rather a blend of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious first and foremost for the cause i.e. the work that they do and not for themselves.

  2. The commitment to help facilitate the learning and development of team members.

    It stands to reason that if leaders ask their people to step up and out of their comfort zones then it is important to ensure that those team members are developing the skills to help them succeed. That is not to say that it is entirely up to the leader to provide all those opportunities but rather that the importance of lifelong learning is taken as a given. Team members are encouraged to grow and challenge existing knowledge. The best way to do this is by example by being a leader committed to constant learning.

  3. Giving people the opportunity to innovate.

    This means removing barriers to innovation, inviting participation and demonstrating trust in people’s capabilities. It means setting up a system so that people’s ideas can be heard, developed and, where possible, supported into implementation. Allowing people to take calculated risks and learn from the outcomes (good, bad or indifferent) is essential to developing confidence.

There are many elements to creating a culture of innovation. However the first step is to start with these three leadership qualities.

If you would like insights and understanding into how to lead for innovation and create a culture of innovation in your workplace then join us for the Leading for Innovation Workshop on Tuesday the 24th of November 2015 in Brisbane.

Register here via Eventbrite.

I rarely run this program as public workshop available to all sectors. However I have had a number of people in different industries request it. So grab this opportunity to learn how to transform through innovation your leadership skills and your workplace.

"Thank you Irena for your wonderful Leading for Innovation workshop. I found the interactive nature and structure of the program a good way to keep everyone engaged during the whole day which also provided an excellent opportunity to network as well. Personally, the highlight for me was the amount of knowledge that you so generously shared! I feel that I now understand the science and art behind making innovation happen. This will provide a framework to bring rigor to the practices that I have 'picked up' through experience. Your unique creative thinking model which promotes solution based thinking is going to be a 'go-to' whenever I get stuck on an idea and cannot see past it to think of other options." C. Hoare. Dept of Justice and Attorney-General.

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