As we count down to this year’s Business Awards, QuoLux, the leadership development and strategy specialist and sponsor of the Lifetime Achievement Award, considers some guiding principles for leading innovation.
This week, QuoLux’s Managing Director, Stewart Barnes, highlights the significance of leadership in businesses that innovate successfully.
Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at the great examples of innovation that have been set by previous winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award. While their achievements have much in common, they all possess very different personalities. It’s a good reminder that authenticity is more important than trying to fit a stereotyped image of what it means to be a leader.
Successful leaders embrace a spectrum of styles from directive and authoritative, to engaging and participative. Experts identify six common leadership styles:
Visionary: A visionary leadership style provides direction and motivation – but be careful, remember to listen to employees throughout the organisation, ensuring the vision feels ‘real’, not just rhetoric.
Coaching: Adopting a coaching style provides a great learning and development environment for staff – but there are times when employees need clear direction.
Affiliative: Being a ‘caring’ boss can create great loyalty – but it’s easy to spend lots of time on more ‘needy’ employees and neglect your steady high performers.
Democratic: This style can be very effective for employee engagement – but leaders need to be mindful of situations where decisive and explicit direction should take precedence over a consultative approach.
Pacesetting: A highly competent, motivated team will respond well to this style – but beware, excessive pressure can de-motivate.
Commanding: When the pressure is on and outcomes are critical, this commanding style of leadership can be reassuring for the team. However, if it’s overused without the balance of other styles, it can also be de-motivating, leading to poor morale and loss of performance.
Most leaders are naturally dominant in one or maybe two of these, but consciously moving between the full spectrum of styles is one of the skills that an effective leader learns.
When companies are developing their innovation strategies and processes, there is often a great deal of consideration given to researching the market, developing a strong market offer (an innovative new product or service) that will stand out, and making sure that the infrastructure and operational processes are in place to bring that to market. But when we consider that all innovation depends on people, and the knowledge, skills and energy they contribute, then it’s clear that leadership is fundamental too.
It’s what Professor Ged Watts, a masterclass speaker on the QuoLux GAIN programme, calls ‘the human organisation’; a critical fourth dimension that’s just as vital as markets, the market offer and internal processes. Innovation involves creativity, new knowledge, complexity, risk and uncertainty, so it takes vision commitment, energy and drive to make it work.
However, this isn’t a responsibility that rests solely with the business leader. Rather, it is leadership throughout an organisation that drives innovation. Perhaps that’s why when we speak with Lifetime Achievement Winners to congratulate them, they are so quick to praise their colleagues. Successful leaders understand that leadership is to be encouraged, invested in, supported and rewarded at all levels of forward-thinking, innovative organisations.