Leadership cc Olivier Carre-Delisle

What does innovating leadership really mean?
Let’s start with the definition of leadership as a uniquely human activity that is intended to move an organization forward such that it improves the lives of the people it serves and simultaneously takes into consideration the rightful interests of the organizational members.

It is important to note that each individual leader will lead in a manner that is authentic to his or her unique skills, abilities, personality, beliefs, values, and other influencing factors such as brain chemistry. Effective leadership encompasses both the science of leading and the heart of the leader. It requires heartfelt care, compassion, and authenticity to be truly effective. This does not mean leaders are soft, but rather they demonstrate compassion when taking tough action. Being a good scientist and understanding the theory is a good start but insufficient if the leader does not demonstrate deep care for the people being led and the people being served.

Innovating leadership cannot be applied as a monolithic theory, or as a simple prescriptive measure. It occurs through your own intellect and stems from your own unique sensibilities.

Let’s build a foundation from which to explore both innovation and leadership, which means talking about them in an entirely different context.

Leadership is a process of influencing people strategically and tactically, effecting change in intentions, actions, culture, and systems to move the organization forward such that it improves the lives of the people it serves and simultaneously takes into consideration the rightful interests of the organizational members.

Leadership influences individual intentions and organizational cultural norms by inspiring purpose and creating alignment. It equally influences an individual’s actions and an organization’s efficiencies through tactical decisions.

Innovation, as an extension of leadership, refers to the novel ways in which we advance that influence throughout the organization.

Innovation is a novel advancement that shapes organizations personally, behaviorally, culturally, and systematically.

In our experience, leadership and innovation are innately connected and share a deep commonality. In addition to linking the relationship of leadership to innovation, notice that we’re also revealing it as an essential part of our individual experience. Just as with leadership and innovation, the way you uniquely experience and influence the world is defined through a mutual interplay of personal, behavioral, cultural, and systematic events. These core dimensions that ground leadership and innovation also provide a context and mirror for your total experience in any given moment or on any given occasion. Optimally, then, leadership is influencing through an explicit balancing of those core dimensions. Innovation naturally follows as a creative advancement of this basic alignment.

Therefore, marrying leadership with innovation allows you to ground and articulate both in a way that creates a context for dynamic personal development—and, dynamic personal development is required to lead innovative transformative change.

Innovating leadership means leaders influence by equally engaging their personal intention and action with the organization’s culture and systems to move the organization forward such that it improves the lives of the people it serves and simultaneously takes into consideration the rightful interests of the organizational members.

Though we are defining innovative leadership very broadly, we are also making a distinct point: The core aspects that comprise your experience—whether it is Leader intention or action, organizational cultural, or systems—are inextricably interconnected. If you affect one, you affect them all.

Innovative leadership is based on the recognition that these four dimensions exist simultaneously in all experiences, and already influence every interactive experience we have. So if, for example, you implement a strategy to realign an organization’s value system over the next five years, you will also affect personal motivations (intentions), behavioral outcomes, and organizational culture. Influencing one aspect—in this case, functional systems—affects the other aspects, since all four dimensions mutually shape each other. To deny the mutual interplay of any one of the four dimensions misses the full picture. You can only innovate your leadership by comprehensively addressing all aspects.  In sum, leadership innovation is the process of improving leadership that allows already successful leaders to raise the bar on their performance and the performance of their organizations.

An innovative leader is defined as someone who consistently delivers results using:
• Strategic leadership that inspires individual intentions and goals and organizational vision and culture
• Tactical leadership that influences an individual’s actions and the organization’s systems and processes
• Holistic leadership that aligns all core dimensions: individual intention and action, along with organizational culture and systems

A balanced approach to leadership and innovation is transformative for both you and your organization, and can help you to respond more effectively to challenges within and outside the enterprise. Innovating your leadership gives you the means to successfully adapt in ways that allows optimal performance, even within the continual change and complexity of an organization.  Conceptually, it synthesizes models from developmental, communications, and systems theory, delivering better insight than singular approaches. Innovative leadership gives you the capacity to openly recognize and critically examine aspects of yourself, as well as your organization’s culture and systems, in the midst of any circumstance.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com Olivier Carré-Delisle

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