The essence of an innovative leader lies in his desire to keep getting better, to keep improving – no matter what! Leaders seek to add value and to make a contribution to any effort that they are involved in…the drive to make things better is the hallmark of a true leader.
One definition of the word innovate is to introduce something new for the first time…to create! Leaders are not innovators because they follow the latest gimmick or fad, they are innovators because they focus on influencing people and organizations to think in new ways.
Leaders are not satisfied with the status quo. Most people are content to do the same things, the same way, all the time, on the contrary, a leader has to improve, to update, to refine, and to initiate change; this is the mantra of an innovative leader. Leaders make change happen, from creating new ideas and new structures, to developing new strategies – all of these changes lead to innovation within an organization.
A leader is quickly dissatisfied with the way things are and will swiftly get his people and the organization moving in the direction that leads to improvement. Leaders bring about change by innovating, in fact, when you study change, you see that it consists of many new ideas and new ways of doing things. To innovate is to create something that was not there before; innovation can occur in a number of different ways – it can occur when two or more different ideas are combined to create a new idea or it can be a totally new, never-been-done before idea.
Leaders create new ideas throughout an organization, in fact, if leaders are not creating they are borrowing the creative ideas of other innovators to try out in their own organizations. Leaders do not suffer from the Not-Invented-Here (NIH) Syndrome; they are shameless adopters of other people’s good ideas and concepts as long as they work.
How do leaders innovate? They ask questions…they ask, “Why?” a lot. They want to understand the connection between what an organization is doing, its missions and objectives, and the results it’s currently achieving. Leaders are innovators because they are out front surveying the landscape, making decisions about which way the organization should go…pointing the way, but more importantly, leading the way…showing people how to get there.
Innovation is the lifeblood of a growing, advancing organization and it is the mechanism for moving an organization from worst to first. Leaders must live, eat, and breathe innovation, ideas, and change because it only takes a few good ideas to change an organization for good. Leaders are responsible for keeping the organization up-to-date, flexible, and sensitive to the changes that are occurring in their environment. Leaders are always looking for ways to improve how things are done, which eventually leads to the organization becoming more efficient and effective.
Leaders build excitement and anticipation by moving the organization on the path to a new vision that is radically different than what came before. The nature of leadership is for the leader to be out front leading the way. Innovation calls for the leader to take a step out in front of other people and to lead the way to a new way of being or doing - that’s what leaders do.
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