Innovative leadership

From CEOpedia | Management online

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.

Innovative Leaders

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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".
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Examples of Innovative leadership

  • Steve Jobs was an innovative leader who revolutionized the technology industry through his leadership at Apple. He was a visionary who saw the potential of technology and had the courage to take risks. Jobs was adept at creating an environment where creativity and innovation could thrive. He was willing to take risks, fail and learn from his mistakes. He also was able to assemble a team of like-minded people with complementary skills to create innovative products and services.
  • Jeff Bezos is another great example of innovative leadership. He transformed the retail industry with his online marketplace Amazon. He was able to think outside the box and was unafraid to challenge the status quo. He was also able to create an organizational culture that was focused on innovation and customer satisfaction. Bezos was able to create an environment where employees could be creative and take risks knowing that failure was an acceptable outcome.
  • Elon Musk is a modern day innovator and leader. He is recognized for his bold ideas and unconventional approach to business. He has demonstrated the power of innovation leadership through his companies, SpaceX and Tesla. Musk was able to assemble a team of engineers and scientists to create revolutionary products and services. He was able to create an environment where failure was seen as part of the learning process, and he was willing to take risks and go against the grain in order to achieve success.

Advantages of Innovative leadership

Innovative leadership provides several advantages in the business world. It can create more effective collaborations and creative solutions, provide a competitive advantage, and increase customer satisfaction.

  • Innovative leadership can create more effective collaborations between departments and between different stakeholders in the business. This can lead to more creative solutions to problems and help foster an environment of innovation and risk taking.
  • Innovative leadership can give a company a competitive edge over its competitors. By using new and creative solutions, a company can differentiate itself from the competition and make it more attractive to customers.
  • Innovative leadership can also increase customer satisfaction. By having innovative solutions to customer needs, a company can establish a reputation for being ahead of the curve and customer focused. This can help a company stand out and win more customers in the long run.

Limitations of Innovative leadership

Innovative leadership has several limitations that need to be taken into account for successful implementation:

  • The lack of resources and expertise can be a major obstacle for innovation initiatives. Companies need to invest in the right talent and resources to ensure successful implementation of innovation.
  • Unclear objectives and lack of direction often lead to ineffective innovation initiatives. Companies should have clearly defined goals and strategies to ensure successful innovation projects.
  • The lack of proper risk management can lead to unsuccessful projects. Companies must be aware of the risks and have a plan in place to manage them.
  • Ineffective communication can lead to too many misunderstandings and delays in innovation initiatives. Companies must ensure proper communication channels between different stakeholders and teams.
  • Poor collaboration between teams can lead to unsuccessful innovation initiatives. Companies must ensure proper collaboration between different departments in order to foster a productive innovation environment.

Other approaches related to Innovative leadership

  • Shared Vision: Leadership should create a shared vision that inspires employees and encourages them to work towards a common goal. A clear vision helps motivate and define innovation strategies and activities.
  • Flexibility and Agility: Leaders must be able to respond quickly to changes in the market and customer needs. This requires the development of an agile and flexible organizational culture that encourages creative problem-solving and adaptation.
  • Innovation-Friendly Environment: Leaders should create an environment that supports experimentation and risk-taking. This includes providing resources and support for employees to take risks and innovate.
  • Lead by Example: Leaders should be a role model for innovation and lead by example. This includes actively encouraging and rewarding employees for taking risks and developing ideas.

In conclusion, effective innovation leadership requires a shared vision, flexibility, an innovation-friendly environment, and leading by example. A successful leadership team must be able to create the conditions necessary for innovation and inspire employees to take risks and develop creative solutions.


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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Author: Daria Boiko,Kaleigh Krieger