Leadership to many people means that the person at the top must work longer and harder than everyone else. This is an ego trip trap that tricks many leaders into revving up, speeding past and burning out. If you’re one of these leaders, you might also, even worse, end up hurting the very people you are leading, in retaliation for feeling inadequate or abused by your own boss or the company itself. Sometimes, as a leader of innovation, you need to slow down in order to speed up. We always hear about techniques for better innovation. Although the three principles below are not focussed on innovation specifically, they will help you as a leader of innovation to deliver better results.
1. Innovation Leaders are people-focused
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, not execute them all. You want 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 and helping them align company goals with their own interests so that they are motivated and inspired to reach the goals you are giving them not just by their salary but also by passion and personal fulfilment. The opportunity to innovate is a privilege, but don’t let this fool you into treating your team like they’re lucky you gave them the option. Let them know you are the one who feels lucky to have them.
2. Innovation Leaders both hold and vary the course they’re following
A leader needs to be aware of the gains and losses, costs and benefits of every ongoing process. Regular course-correction keeps the ship headed to the right port. As a leader of innovation, you can’t follow blind routines, but you also can’t jump from one path to another randomly. Like a movie director, you need to remain flexible and agile while at the same time communicating the big picture to every hand on deck. Take time and space to assess where you are and where you are going. Bill Gates attributes much of his success with Microsoft to taking whole “thinking weeks.” Leading innovation demands an astute combination of perseverance and agility, fortitude and flexibility. Trust your instincts while keeping the plan close at hand.
3. Innovation Leaders favor long-term thinking
An ordinary employee might win by grinding out terrific short-term results. As a leader, you have to see much farther. Daily or weekly targets won’t get you far. Instead, disengage from the daily cycle and rat race and look to the horizon. 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 efforts to get a commercializable light bulb, but it paid off. Take time to take stock and notice where you and your teams need shoring up, then take firm yet steady action to do just that.