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Innovation leadership, to many people, means that the person at the top must work longer and harder than everyone else. But this is an ego trip trap that tricks many leaders into revving up, speeding past and burning out.

If you’re one of those leaders, you might also end up hurting the very people you are leading. And that’s even worse! Just because you feel inadequate or abused by your own boss or the company, it’s not fair to retaliate!

It’s Not About How Hard You Work!

As an Innovation leader, sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed your team up.

The three principles below are not focussed on innovation specifically. They will actually help any leader deliver better results. But they also work really well for supporting innovation.

1. Innovation Leaders Focus on People

Being a leader doesn’t mean being a boss. Nor does it mean doing everything yourself. Leaders need to understand a wide variety of job roles but not execute them all. As a leader, you need to be sure to hire people who are better than you at the jobs they do. So make sure your people feel appreciated and recognized at all times to keep them enthusiastic.

Interact with those you are leading by taking account of their individual needs. Help them align company goals with their own interests so they are motivated and inspired. Give them goals that stoke their passion and tickle their personal fulfillment.

The opportunity to innovate is a privilege, true. But don’t treat your team like they’re the lucky ones. Make sure they know you feel lucky to have them with you.

2. Innovation Leaders Hold the Course and Vary the Course

A leader needs to remain aware of the gains and losses, costs and benefits of every ongoing process. Use regular course correction to keep your ship headed toward the right port.

As a leader of innovation, you can’t follow blind routines, of course. But you also can’t jump from one path to another randomly. You need to remain flexible and agile. At the same time you need to communicate the big picture to every hand on deck. If you run a big company or a big department, that can be a big deck! Take time and space to assess where you are and where you are going at each step.

Bill Gates attributes much of his success with Microsoft to taking whole “thinking weeks.” Leading innovation demands an astute combination of perserverance and agility, fortitude and flexibility. Trust your instincts while keeping your plan close at hand.

3. Innovation Leaders Win with Long-term Thinking

An ordinary employee might win by grinding out terrific short-term results. But as a leader, you have to see past the horizon.

Daily or weekly targets won’t get you far enough. Instead, disengage from the rat race and look far to the future. As a leader, you are paid to be effective, not frenetic. This is as or more true in innovation as in any other area.

Remember, Edison took years and ten thousand experiments to get a commercializable light bulb. But look how that paid off. Take time to take stock and notice where you and your team needs shoring up. Then take firm and steady action to do just that.

Be well!

Michael Lee, SVP, Strategy and Marketing, Innovation Minds