Saturday, December 14, 2013

Top Qualities & Skills of Innovation Leaders

Innovative leaders today are digital conductors, problem-Solvers, and culture influencers. 

There are many common leadership qualities or skills shared between an innovative leader and any good leader or any creative team member. However, being innovative leaders take more courage, creativity, courage, collaboration, and concentration.

An innovative leader must walk the tight rope between diplomat and maverick: On one hand, he/she will get faster results by respecting people, getting the best effort from the people. Listening and orchestrating as fast as possible. On the other hand, to deliver the innovation on time, he/she must be willing to take risks and jump through some hoops. Knowing that success will reward and failure will punish. You cannot make omelets without breaking some eggs. Walking that tight rope makes the innovation leader a likable acrobat; a true artist; in short, an Innovation Leader.

An innovative leader must be like a conductor leading the orchestra with a not yet completely written symphony: Creativity, openness for the new ideas, out of the box thinking and a very strong capacity for rapid integration and digestion of abundant information all come from various sources (technology, service, business, financials...). Also, an innovative leader has the skill to extract and impart learning from any situation, successes as well as failures, humor, mainly self-humor. 

An innovative leader is technology-savvy and digital fluent: It’s also important that innovation leaders and innovators understand both the technology they are using to serve customers and the strategy of the business. It’s key to combining technical knowledge with business understanding.  Innovative development team members exhibit qualities that make them better able to generate or discover good ideas, have the judgment to know what’s important, and have the leadership ability to deliver.

An innovative leader today is a problem-solver, who has to create, manage, and exploit innovation networks and business eco-system: Leaders who can recognize innovative ideas, fight for resources and political cover, and connect ideas and teams together to deliver an innovative result are also critical to achieving innovation excellence. In order to select the right people to drive innovation projects, you must recognize that in today’s environment, you’re no longer sourcing all the innovation inside your company. Innovation is a process that is cross-functional and non-industry specific. It is, at its heart, a problem-solving process - and as such, you need to find someone who is able to network the firm to uncover the problems, to get problem owners on board with the innovation program, and then to devise the appropriate mix of processes, people, and tools to solve the problem and execute the solution.

An innovative leader has the transdisciplinary knowledge and cross-functional experience: Innovative leaders emerge from many functional backgrounds to network into non-conventional connections, out of the team's discipline and usual networks; with the ability to irradiate inclusion. Successful innovation team leaders offer the ability to:
- Clarify the opportunity and articulate the vision
-Develop and manage the process of innovation
- Promote a healthy climate for innovation
-Inspire team members to create a portfolio of new ideas, concepts, and scenarios (through 'exploratory thinking' methods)
- Coach team members on innovation management practices and how to overcome the barriers to innovation

Innovative leaders’ skills are varying. The first question is what type of innovation your company's seeking. You need different types of people for various innovation objectives (incremental, breakthrough, etc.) for different types of companies (solutions versus products, etc.). Aptitude and skills will vary from front-end to back-end. Typically no one has them all and the first sign of a good innovation leader is he/she will recognize his/her limitations and build a team to compensate. The desired skills may include:

1) A real capability to listen & integrate each function's inputs so that the projects get enriched & solid while progressing in its development
2) A deep understanding of key consumer/ customer insights. Excellent memory & courage not to forget those key findings when moving ahead in the execution when facing adversity
3) Communication to promote ideas: An effective leader needs a large and deep structure of soft skills like the ability to communicate, conflicts resolution, empowerment, motivational skills, control of criticism, etc.
4) Project and Program Management skills. so they may champion how new initiatives get framed and then expertly guide engineers/managers/ marketers through cross-functional development and commercialization stage gates to produce real results in a timely manner that lead to the creation of new business value.
5) Facilitation skills to explore; promote and even translate new conversations to stakeholders at all levels that lead to new service/product programs
6) A high-level social intelligence. Add in the elements of collaboration and social network experience. If you're doing this as a collaborative process (which any self-respecting innovation program should be nowadays), you need to to be able to build, maintain, and engage internal and external social networks to provide new sources of insights, experiences, and ideas that drive value for the company.

Therefore, the effective innovation leaders should well mix the soft leadership qualities and hard business/technology expertise, with a strong focus, perseverance, and capabilities of doing the opposite of the crowd with confidence!


Very well written!!! A good leader as well as keeping the main goal in focus is able to think analytically. leadership development

Thanks Eshan, I am so glad you enjoy my blog posting, any further thought and feedback would be always welcomed.

Best Regards,

Nice blog on "Top qualities & skills of innovation leaders". Engagement with quality online learning innovation programs also help to enhance innovation skills in business leaders.

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That's for sure, these type of innovation skills help corporate professionals to develop extremely innovative products like the launch of android developer forum for IT experts.

Not just communication but a well versed communication skills is expected with today's leaders as they form a bridge between the organization and clients. This skill can solve and initiate many things. Thanks for sharing!!

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