Innovation and Leadership:
Very recently I attended a leadership lunch event where I was introduced to innovative leaders across the region. The question the speaker asked was "How do great leaders create innovation that drives sustainable growth and why do others fail?" This sparked an interest and I sought out for answers. It seems Jane Stevenson and Bilal Kaafarani has found a way to put words around innovation in their book "Breaking Away". Defining leaders in categories and filling the gap with "The three W's". They provide a language and framework to help describe innovation as a leader. I'm not going to give away the books concept, I will leave the reading to you if you are interested in reading more; however, the concept that the authors describe is something that I can apply as an innovative leader.
I am an innovative leader. I am creative and a visionary. Sometimes this scares people because the approach is loose and does not fall into an orchestrated operations standard. There are also times I can picture the goal or end result in my mind and I cannot describe the idea in words that have an orderly framework. I think many innovative visionaries struggle with this, there is always a formalized end result, but the path in getting there isn’t always clear.
I most recently completed implementing a national program and have gained some lessons in the process. This program was something I always wanted to do and took me two years from concept, design to market.
The key lessons that I learned include:
- Plan for marketing early,
- Make sure to define what and why you are doing and sell it to others,
- Gain Support through advocacy and sponsorship, and
- Keep open to ideas and people’s offerings as they come your way.
Very recently I validated these learning as I study to take my PMP certification. I am only validating that defining the business case and gaining a sponsors support is critical to the success of any project.
There are always lessons for me to learn as a leader.
Key to Success:
The key to success is making sure to address the customer (who), the product or service (what) and the business case (why). The key to the success is making sure the customer's wants are addressed and being planned as the product is being produced. If all of these basic concepts are addressed, then people will gain confidence in the product and support your efforts.
What Makes a Great Leader?
There are many philosophies and concepts about leadership, but to me the key skills are:
• Knowing self,
• Being Transparent,
• Listening, and
• Asking a lot of questions to clarify, asking your people “what they are doing and what they want”.
With experience you gain momentum naturally. I find if I provide each person on the team goals, define their roles (knowing what the responsibility is and end result looks like), then getting out of the way but being available is my approach. I find, once everyone understands their roles and have the responsibility, and give them the room to be creative. The key is to be available to communicate and bounce ideas; I find that silence is golden. It is amazing. I am always surprised by the ideas that each person brings to the table and formulated. The final products fulfill far more beyond the original design.
Being an Innovator does not come without cost. The traditional environments do not always grab hold of these approaches or concepts; might not even see value up-front. Networking and building true lasting relationships are important to a successful approach.