Everyone person in a position of authority likely wants to be a good leader. But it’s not always as simple as having a team behind you, listening to your every word. Indeed, the sign of a good leader is not that one is always at the forefront. The quote below summarizes it rather well:
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu
Ultimately, a good leader should be able to step back and let his team shine. Often, their role is in the background, providing that gentle and subtle push to greatness.
Interestingly, two out of five employees leave an organization because of bad leadership. And 85% report that a good manager is critical for their happiness at the workplace. Thirty-eight percent of employees have stayed in a job longer than they thought they would because of a good boss.
Our article looks at how leaders can enable innovation in their teams.
Provide the Right Atmosphere for Innovation
Some workplaces can be very stifling of innovation because of bad leaders. Anyone who dares speak up will invite the wrath of those in power. It is almost as if they feel the employee is trying to prove they are better than the managers. In such environments, the best policy is to do the job the company is paying you for. You learn to keep quiet about everything else.
Yet, the next big idea for the company may be from the lower-level staff members. A good leader encourages an environment that promotes and accepts innovative ideas. And the modern workplace has the advantage of technologies like innovation software. With such innovation management solutions, the company can:
- Enhance global collaboration by navigating geographic barriers and getting rid of entrenched silos.
- Manage a portfolio of innovating ideas from one central location. It also works as an excellent crowdsource ideas platform.
- Scale innovation through ideas outsourcing across many platforms. The innovation software also allows for tracking, evaluating outcomes, and more.
With such obvious benefits, investing in idea management systems is a commendable business move.
Set Aside Time for Innovation
Successful companies like Google set aside time for innovation. The 20% time rule encourages employees to spend time thinking up ideas. All these go toward benefitting the company. Fantastic ideas have emerged, including Google News, AdSense, and Gmail. Other companies have copied Google’s example with some excellent results.
One way to use such time is through innovation challenge contests. Leaders can use such to stoke the fires of innovation. the idea is to get everyone excited and willing to take part. It should be an employee-centric rather than a company-focused initiative.
For greater chances of success, the company should invest in employee training programs. The right platforms can tailor courses specific to what the company wants to achieve.
For innovation, it could be about critical thinking, problem identification, and solution generation. You will be training the employees on areas outside their immediate work scope. Think about it like opening up their minds. They can then see new possibilities like idea generation and innovation.
Understand What Pushes Innovation
There are three critical factors leaders need to identify that encourage innovation.
- A growth mindset belongs to that staff member who is open to challenges and change. They are often the first adopters of new things, including technology. If you were to introduce them to ideas development tools, they would only be too happy to try them out. They are often curious, eager to learn, and quite adventurous. This is in direct contrast to those with fixed minds who like things to remain as they are.
- Skills like critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving. We go back to our point of availing training opportunities to unlock such skills.
- Personal values that allow for innovation. Such include self-direction and independent thinking. Conformists are less likely to be innovators. This is because they will not challenge what is in place.
A good leader should be able to identify such characteristics in their employees. With the right strategies, even those with fixed mindsets can change. Setting up challenges and reward systems can get them to look outside their comfort zone.
Positive reinforcement can change the most timid staff members. They will be more willing to take part in innovation programs.
Cultivate the Right Innovative Leadership Skills
How can you encourage innovation in your teams if you, as the leader, don’t understand what it takes? A good leader does not have to have a university degree or years of education. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates launched and ran some of the most successful companies. Indeed, companies whose very basis is innovation.
Yet, both did not even have degrees at the time of launching their companies.
Some characteristics you need to have as an innovative leader include:
- A passion for the business. Remember those below you look to you for motivation. If you lack passion, it will reflect in everything you do.
- A good communicator who can explain strategies in simple terms.
- Excellent implementer who sets proper tasks, timelines, and goals.
- Someone with the ability to take responsibility.
- Knowledge and expertise of the domain. How can you lead people in something you don’t understand?
- The ability to inspire trust and loyalty amongst staff members.
Some of the characteristics are innate capabilities. We often hear the phrase, “born leaders”. Such people do not struggle to get others to follow them. But with proper training, developing some of these skill sets is possible.
Remember, as an innovative leader, you have a critical role in the whole process. Even if you remain in the background, it is crucial to be able to provide leadership anytime your team needs it. That places the onus on you to develop your skill set, to be able to offer the right advice and guidelines as necessary.
The success of a leader is clearly seen from the success of the team. And it is not always about following the company’s rules and procedures. Some of the best outcomes result from allowing teams to innovate.
As a leader, it is crucial to provide the right environment for the generation of ideas. Technological solutions like innovation software can be a game-changer. The idea management tools allow for the sharing and scaling of innovative ideas. Allow employees time to innovate and be open to feedback.
Finally, you must possess the right skills. Identifying and building upon such is a sure recipe for success.
Article guest written by Daniel Martin. Dan has hands-on experience in digital marketing as far back as 2007. He has been building teams and coaching others to foster innovation and solve real-time problems. Dan also enjoys photography and traveling.