Strategies for Innovative Leadership

No one on our team wanted my job this week – me included. One of our contractors felt so sorry for me that she sent me flowers. 

Staff changes, challenging policy developments, extensive budget reviews, multiple demands, immovable deadlines and difficult decisions have all contributed to this being an even more challenging time than usual. 

And yet, even though I did take time to vent and must confess to attending several personal pity parties, I knew I didn’t have the right to complain. After all, I hadn’t signed up to maintain the status quo and neither had anyone else on our team.

During difficult times maintaining the status quo is in itself an achievement but for our particular team, it’s much more about wanting to ensure innovation.  It is even more important to keep that innovation manifesto and the leadership it requires front and centre when we’re bogged down in the administrivia of our day to day reality. As a result I’ve tried to step back a bit to think about what our team is doing that demonstrates innovative leadership. 

First of all, we’ve learned that nothing happens without a vision.  For us that means community building by way of community leadership, innovation, and collaboration. It is that vision, together with the outcomes that come with it, that keeps us motivated and focused on the possibilities. 

However, as much as we like to push the envelope to get to that vision, we’ve also learned to marry that creativity with the discipline of management.  Innovation needs wings as well as landing gears. Recently the ratio tipped more to management and landing gears but sometimes that happens and we’ve learned to accept it as a necessity.

We’re learning to work in an environment that is constantly changing and are getting much better at accepting uncertainty. We take measured risks, and sometimes fail, but always dissect, discuss and learn from what went wrong. We’ve also learned to be much more courageous about admitting when we’re doing something that isn’t working even if it means backing up and starting again. It is as C. S. Lewis once said, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the one who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

Another belief we all seem to have embraced is that many of the answers already exist. Instead of inventing something new, we simply we need to be proactive about finding promising practices, sharing them, and sometimes applying them in a different way.

Honesty, originality, and authenticity are other traits that seems to be shared among many on our team. While we don’t set out to be original, somehow by being honest and truthful with one another we always seem to get to something new and to real breakthroughs without even trying. There’s something unmistakably original and truthful about innovative leadership.

All in all our focus on innovation has made for an outstanding team that also seems to attract and retain other innovators. That in itself is cause for a celebration. And, most importantly, it won’t be a pity party.

Posted on 09-13-09

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