Today, innovation is changing quickly, and global companies are noticing the disruption. Companies must change their approach to innovation leadership otherwise they will risk a tumultuous ride. Leadership needs to stay up to date and relevant. Marion Poetz, Associate Professor at Copenhagen Business School, notes that innovation has changed from closed R & D doors to more collaborative methods starting originally with joint ventures or licensing deals. Currently, innovation leadership is on another wave of change with companies interacting with communities and start-ups across different areas for more than product innovation. These alliances are strategic and general co-creation bringing new approaches like crowdsourcing. Business leaders need to change their general approach in how they create space for innovation requiring an adjustment of structure and culture within the organization to make innovation not only possible but successful. Innovative leaders not only are open to new projects but also new forms of innovative strategy, such as reorganization. Part of the innovation is reaching out to very different partners and stakeholders for knowledge sharing. Through this small change, companies will find new ways to address their existing market needs and perhaps new business ventures. To be an innovative leader you need to create an organization that is agile and recognizes that there is valuable knowledge to share both outside and inside the company.
The keys to innovation leadership are open and radical thinking balanced with constant improvement of core competencies; the sharing and collaborating of knowledge. Skills needed for an innovative leader are: creativity, open-mindedness, communication and organization skills, imagination, ambition, and drive. Here are 5 examples of top innovative leaders in today’s world:
- Jeff Bezos - CEO of the third most valuable company in the world, Amazon. His recipe for success is focusing on the customer -- customer’s needs and wants in particular. What really shows that is the fact that the CEO always leaves an empty seat for a customer representative at every meeting. His vision is that customer is the most important person in the room, even if they are not in the room.
- Pete Cashmore - the creator of Mashable, one of the most popular digital media websites with over 55 million pageviews a month. Cashmore’s advice is recognizing how important execution of the idea actually is. Although, it is great to have the initial idea, but it is absolutely necessary to have a thorough plan and a final goal. His exact words are “Follow-through is just as important as the innovative idea”.
- Mark Zuckerberg - CEO of Facebook. He believes that the key to success is being passionate about what you are doing. Therefore, the primary requirement for potential employees is fitting into the culture and vision of the company - passion above everything. Every member of the staff is encouraged to work on the projects they are excited about, even if they were not assigned to them. Zuckerberg says that all this leads to high motivation and many innovative ideas coming up in the future.
- Reid Hoffman - the co-founder of LinkedIn, most popular site for networking and job hunting. This leader was one of the authors of a book called, The Alliance, the main idea of which is reinventing relationship between employers and employees. Hoffman states that managers and supervisors should see their employees as allies, which builds trust between two different levels of the organization. Positive dynamics inside the company are always a good thing. How exactly to achieve it? Just open up, pay more attention to communicating, learn what a little more about the employees, their plans, aspiration.
- Mary Barra - a very significant leader, being the first female CEO of a big automotive company, General Motors. Her strategy is never to ignore the problems and always hold yourself accountable, since escaping the responsibility is only going to lead to bigger problems. A very good example of that is an incident that happened only two weeks after Mary Barra started her company. A defective injection switch that caused over 100 deaths. The CEO decided to deal with all the consequences caused by this scandal and lead an investigation, which led to new policies. Nowadays the company is running very successfully. This proves that Mary Barra’s leadership style is highly effective.
If businesses do not innovate their leadership approach, they will certain be in for some rough times. Companies need leaders that can be fluid and change with the times; companies need more than visionaries, they need leaders that are willing to take risk and step beyond their comfort zone. It can be said that innovative leadership is a combination of personal characteristics, behaviors, individual management style, strategies and skills. A quote from a former Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a great representation of what an innovative leader is. “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”
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- Churchill, Gilbert A, et al. “Sales Force Management : Planning Implementation, and Control.” Research Gate, University of Wisconsin, 2019.
- DeMarco, Nacho. “How to Become an Innovative Leader.” Business.com, 11 June 2018
- Gumusluoglu, Lale, and Arzu Ilsev. “Transformational Leadership, Creativity, and Organizational Innovation.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 62, no. 4, Apr. 2009, pp. 461–473., doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.07.032.
- Koldby, Mikael. “The Art of Innovation Leadership Is (Also) Being Disrupted.” CBS - Copenhagen Business School, 6 Sept. 2017
Author: Daria Boiko,Kaleigh Krieger