Resourced Leaders

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The innovation leader

Posted by Phil Owens
Phil Owens
Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He
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on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 in Leadership

In any team, who do you think should be the most innovative?

  • Should it be the ‘outlier’ – the crazy person up the back who comes out with stuff from left field?
  • Should it be the most popular member of the group, whom everyone wants to like?

 

The answer is actually the group leader.  If you are the leader of a group and you are not being taking up the role of also being the innovation leader and champion, then you are not effectively serving the group.

Here’s why:

  • The leader provides a distinct and salient ‘prototype’ for the group, and is often the setter and enforcer of norms.  Ideas taken up and championed by the leader become more accepted, and connected with the normative concepts of the group.  Outliers and other members of the group can have their innovative ideas dismissed as being radical and potentially threatening to both the norms and the harmony of the group.
  • A properly established leader (who has earned leadership position through transformative leadership, correct task and interpersonal focus and who has built trust) is in a rare position of having idiosyncrasy credit – that is, they are given leniency more than any other member of the team to deviate from the norms (which is exactly what an innovative idea is!)
  • A properly functioning leader is operating from a sense of maintaining and directing the group in a way that serves the superordinate goals – that is, they are the ones who keep the group focused on the bigger team goal as opposed to their own self interest.  Self interested parties will often dismiss ideas (cognitive dissonance) that do not fit with their schema for how things should be.  This decreases the ability of individuals within the group from seeing how innovation fits the superordinate goal.  The leader is uniquely placed to pick up ideas that others may dismiss for person reasons and connect their potential worth to the superordinate goal.

 

 

IF you are the leader of a team, what can you do?

  • Establish yourself as the true leader of the team, building trust, setting and maintaining goals, standards and norms.  Create a strong sense of purpose and inclusion.
  • Tune in to things which may serve the goal, but may be challenging or quickly dropped or dismissed by the group. 
  • Solicit innovation.  Group brainstorming has been shown to be less effective that individual brainstorming, and context related ideas (someone in the group connects the dots between the context and an idea to create something new) should be captured.
  • The leader should champion an idea as long as it has value to the superordinate goal.  Hanging onto ideas for too long (when they stink!) or because it supports factional games within the team is not the sign of a good leader.
  • Reward innovative thinking with social praise and identification.  In any true group, there is always competition between individuals to see who can be the best member of the group.  Encourage this to be by delivering innovative ideas.
  • Engage in the content, but also surf above the content to look for connections.  As a leader, you are uniquely placed to see what others don’t.
  • Make innovation the ‘norm’ for the group.  No idea is a bad idea until it has been tested.
  • Be prepared to set a sub-team up to take an innovative idea forward.  Sometimes ‘group-think’ drags ideas down before the group has had the chance to properly evaluate it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready to take the leadership challenge?  As leader, you are uniquely placed to champion and drive innovation in your team.  What are you doing to be more than just the ‘timekeeper’?

Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He honed his skills working with executives and leaders around the world, coaching and consulting in over 30 countries, from entrepreneurial start-ups to boards of multi-billion dollar businesses.

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