10 Behaviors Typical of Highly Innovative Leaders

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Welcome to our new weekly feature, The Tipsterbringing you easy-to-digest tips on topics that matter to your innovative work.

This Week: What are the typical behaviors of highly innovative leaders?

In 2010, EmcArts developed the Rubric of Innovation Capacity in collaboration with the James Irvine Foundation.  Of the forty-five capacities tested, we found that the qualities below were the 10 most typical for highly innovative leaders:

1. Say that innovation matters, and explain why

Make innovation central to your vision. Say it over and over. Praise it when you see it – and push people when you don’t.

2. Support your innovators

Support means resources, but also attention – have innovation teams “report to the top,” including access to the Board.

3. Measure differently, measure to learn

You need to measure the success of innovations, but don’t use “business-as-usual” measures. Tailor them to the innovation, and use your metrics to learn and improve, not to evaluate effectiveness prematurely.

4. Describe the implementation process very carefully

You are all really competent at your “business-as-usual” work – you do it almost without thinking. But innovation is different, and you need to pay more attention to what you’re doing, especially at the beginning; so capture and document the processes, so you can use them again.

5. Get help to boost your capacity

The best innovators realize that their people can’t do the new thing without some outside expertise.

6. Look around for emerging trends and ideas

Effective innovators are always scanning the environment for good ideas they can use, and staying current with external influences on their work.

7. Give consideration to everybody’s ideas

Good innovators welcome input from many sources, and actively seek out points of view that they know will be different from their own. They are comfortable being uncomfortable.

8. Communicate the benefit

When you talk about your innovation (and you’ll need to), tell people why it will help them, not that it’s a really great new thing. Relate it to THEIR interests, not yours.

9. Actively resolve conflicts

Innovations upset the apple cart. Move quickly and clearly to deal with conflicts that threaten to stall the effort.

10. Get the Board on board

Develop in the Board the expectation that you’ll be innovative, and have the Board communicate those expectations to your staff.

Do you intentionally practice any of these behaviors at your organization? What kinds of leadership strategies have you found successful in your innovation projects? Share in the comments below.

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