The Role of Innovation Leader
If you’re going to lead innovation successfully it must be your passion for both – leadership and innovation. Anything short of this will fail. You must live and breathe innovation and the desire to innovate through people – this is leadership. The starting point for being passionate is having Purpose. Purpose is the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc. and the context is that which surrounds, and gives meaning to, Purpose. Successfully leading innovation requires the leader to define their purpose and recognize the context in which they’ll achieve it.
My personal Purpose for leading innovation is to make the world a better place for having lived in it and the context is merging the academic or theoretical world of innovation with real world where value will be created. I begin doing this by reading widely on innovation and leadership then applying it in my job and life every day in an iterative fashion. I hope you’ll appreciate this context as I move from the academic world of innovation to the real world of applying it to create value.
What is your purpose and context for leading innovation? Are they theoretical or pragmatic, strategic or tactical, inspiring or mundane? Only you can define these, but they are critical to even beginning. Often our Purpose and context are latent and unexpressed something that will retard our ability to achieve the results we want. Answering these questions is a critical success factor and once you define your Purpose and context you must remain consistent within it.
Let’s begin with two definitions: leadership and innovation both with elements from Peter Drucker who was perhaps the leading thinker on these topics. Leadership, according to Drucker, is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. Innovation is defined as the specific act of responding to, and exploiting, change, by endowing resources (e.g., people) with a new capacity to create wealth.
Given these definitions let’s begin with answering the question, albeit incompletely, how does one lead innovation?
Innovation is hard work and leading innovation even harder still work, but there is no alternative to sustained success especially in today’s current economic climate. In the end, it’s all about people, including the leader, and finding ways to make people successful. Critical success factors are: everyone involved in the innovation process must have a purpose, passion and courage. This simply means that you, as the leader, must want to do it with all your being. It must drive your existence. However, even the most effective leader of innovation must deal with the fact that things beyond your control will impact your destiny. But it’s worth it because when innovation is successful it doesn’t get any better.