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What It Takes to Become a Crucial Leader

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Today’s economy demands a new kind of leader. A courageous leader who pokes the box, challenges the status quo, or breaks the rules, even in the midst of an increasingly complex business climate. Anyone can follow a map, but remarkable leaders seize opportunities by designing the map!

Innovation. It is not just a business strategy for the creative team or senior management. Innovation is the responsibility of everyone! From the c-suite to the front line, leaders must abandon the old philosophy “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and look for ways to create new methods, ideas, products or services to keep their competitive advantage.

In a recent IBM study of 1,500 CEOs, over 60% cited creativity as the most crucial leadership quality needed over the next five years. However, another study reports a mere 26% of employees are often or regularly encouraged by their manager to look for new solutions or to take risks. More than a third (41% in the US) said they are never encouraged to do so. The irony … creativity is crucial in a thriving organization but very few leaders actually allow or encourage their employees to be creative.

It’s easy, quite comfortable, and safe to say “no” all the time. Pushing the boundaries of creativity challenges us to take risks; to sometimes slow down to discover something new and different. But the payoff for a team (or organization) that allows space for innovation to occur is too great to put off any longer!

A culture of innovation:

  • encourages employees to bring their best ideas and solutions to a major problem
  • results in employees being energized by work that is meaningful when engaged in a shared mission
  • leads to new and re-engineered products and services resulting in leaner processes, happier customers, decreased costs, and greater ROI
  • creates competitive advantage
  • becomes “the strategy” that will determine an organization’s ability to survive in a highly competitive business climate

As with any leadership skill, creativity is developed through practice. Here are three strategies to drive innovation within your team.

  1. Inspire a mindset of curiosity. Rather than saying “No, because …” engage your team with “Yes, if …” conversations. Explore and challenge the current ways of doing business. Don’t accept “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
  2. Tie innovation to the organization’s goals. Bob Champagne, Director of Corporate Development at Starbucks says, “We identify areas that are most important to us through strategic planning. Then we put up guard rails and let people play in these spaces.” So how do you do this? Continue to reinforce your mission, goals, and priorities while also giving your team freedom to pursue creative ideas. This helps the team understand which opportunities are worth pursuing and will move the business forward.
  3. Plan for creative thinking. Google is a company known for its culture of innovation. Various reports indicate their employees spend 60% of their time on the job, 30% being helpful to others, and 10% “thinking.” This approach sends a very clear message that innovation is not only expected and valued, but is part of everyone’s responsibility.

If you’re feeling a little stressed to go out and “innovate,” don’t be. Is it possible you have opportunities directly in front of you? Often times it is not the biggest idea that has the greatest impact, but rather the accumulation of small ideas and improvements that, over time, creates a significant competitive advantage.

If you are interested receiving a copy of the 5 Easy Steps to Innovation activity that you can use with your team, simply send me an EMAIL and request a copy today!