Innovative Leadership Starts With These Three Habits

Innovative leadership is a necessary leadership skill in today’s fast-growing market. Your organization can not afford to languish in the mindset of doing business the way you have always done it. Implement these three simple, yet sometimes difficult, steps to becoming an innovative leader:

  1. Forget About Best Practices: Best practices thinking restricts creativity and innovative thinking. Instead, managers should encourage employees to take risks and experiment to develop divergent thinking. After all, what are best practices but things that others have done that worked out well at the time? You and your team should be continually questioning and defying best practices through experimentation. Very few things work the same way today as they did 20, 10, even 3 years ago. Make sure that your organization is not falling into the complacency trap by using best practices as a crutch for critical thinking and creative problem-solving.
  2. Accelerate Decision Making: Decision making is a critical skill of the innovative leader. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, recently discussed his approach to innovative decision making in his annual shareholder letter as “high-quality, high-velocity decisions.” This means that innovative leaders must be able to make good decisions quickly in order to stay alive in today’s market. One of the concepts Bezos discusses in this section is the “disagree and commit.” It means that, rather than try to get 100% consensus on all decisions, team members need to be able to communicate their disagreement with a specific decision, but then commit themselves to the decision fully. This is a critical concept for team members as well as innovative leaders to make decisions that will quickly move initiatives and the organization forward. This, Bezos explains, is a much better decision-making process for innovative teams than the “you’ve worn me down” approach.
  3. Become Failure Tolerant: To become an innovative leader, you must work on becoming more failure tolerant. This is different than accepting failure as a norm. Innovation is difficult to measure and quantify, particularly in the short-term. And success is never guaranteed. If you have an individual or a team who is genuinely working hard on an innovative project that just ends up falling flat you have to be able to let them get over that failure, coach them through learning from it and remove the fear of future failure. Successfully innovative teams will take the lessons they’ve learned from their failure and turn them into strengths for the next iteration of the project or to a new project. If you create an environment in which they are afraid to fail, teams will simply stop taking the risks necessary to move your organization forward.