When we think about leadership, there are a lot of qualities that come to mind. We imagine people who are charismatic. Good public speakers. We believe that a leader is confident, decisive, and convincing. But one thing we tend to forget about is perhaps the most important trait of all: innovation.
What Is Innovation?
But beyond that, practices like having meetings standing or walking outside to keep things moving (literally), building community within an organization by pairing up random employees for lunch dates, gamifying the workplace, offering unlimited vacation time, and having employees work four days a week instead of five are all examples of innovation at work on the day-to-day level.
Why Innovation Is Important
With huge companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Intel spending billions of dollars on innovation a year, you may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?”. Can innovation really be the most important skill of all the abilities a leader must have? Yes, and here’s why.
Innovation is what makes an organization stand out from its competitors, and even among the global market. In fact, you probably already know that there’s almost no point in founding a new business if you won’t be able to offer something new to make customers choose you over other, existing options.
Keep Growing and Improving
Innovation is the main force that allows a company to have longevity and succeed in the long run. Because if one thing is certain, it’s change. We’ve seen it even in our lifetimes, with the internet revolution leading to a shift in how nearly everything works. And these types of shifts are the rule, not the exception.
Another inevitable factor in the life of entrepreneurs and business leaders? Problems. That’s right, no matter how talented you are and how well you plan, it is unavoidable that you will inevitably face a challenge (or a thousand) in your career. Whether that’s an untrustworthy employee, a sudden downturn in business, difficulties hiring, or the lunch truck being late to your company event, problems are a part of the game.
How to Improve Your Innovation
That all being said, how can you grow your innovation as a leader? Here are a few ideas.
Have Multiple Interests
When you focus your expertise on one small area of mastery, you miss all sorts of other ideas that you could potentially use in your field. So much of the time, the most innovative ideas are the ones that use a solution or an insight from one domain and apply it to another. The more you can learn about areas of knowledge outside of your lane, the more creative ideas you’ll have.
True leaders know that nobody can go at it alone. Instead of trying to run everything by themselves and relying on their own brain to solve every problem, innovators surround themselves with trustworthy, knowledgeable associates who help them – and their company – be the best they can be. After all, more brains equal more ideas.
True innovators aren’t afraid of failure. What they’re afraid of is never taking the chance to try something new. They know the value of taking a risk on a new idea because they are well aware of how rewarding innovation can be when it works. When a new idea or venture fails, great leaders don’t mope; they move on to the next thing, learning from their mistakes.
Don’t Get Comfortable
When it comes to business, an innovative leader never settles for “good enough.” They’re always looking ahead, trying to improve, and brainstorming new ideas. They don’t want a status quo and they never get complacent.