#innovationmandate

Notice in the title I used the word “earn.” I did not say “deserve,” or “are entitled to,” or “should expect.”

Any leader who struts around and expects to be respected just because of the nameplate on their door, or the view from their corner office, is making a big mistake.

Innovation leaders earn respect every day and with every interaction they have with stakeholders. They never take it for granted.

Here are the three LeaderLogic core areas in which innovation leaders excel, earn the respect they deserve, and stay ahead of the pack.

1. Results

Chances are, you’re demanding a lot from your team, and that’s okay. But remember, your team is expecting you to deliver results. One of the best ways to drive innovation success is to focus on your own results as a leader so that you have the incredible benefits of sharing with your team that you expect nothing more from them than you expect from yourself.

Have you ever worked for a boss who demands a high workload but who shows up at 10:00 am and leaves at 3:00 pm? I thought so! (And don’t say, “Oh, the boss is super-efficient.” No. The boss is lazy.) We all have had such bosses, and we don’t respect them, and chances are we won’t work for them for long. As the leader who values innovation, you need to “walk the walk” and set the example for your employees. When you know what’s important to you, you’re more likely to take action. Avoid distractions and busywork, and stick to developing those new ideas that help the organization move forward. Those around you will notice, and they’ll make your work ethic part of their everyday behavior too.

Results—both that you achieve and you ask of others—must be clear, realistic, and measurable. Don’t play games with your employees by being vague or by moving the goalposts. Setting SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and timely) innovation goals can help you evaluate those you wish to set. Put a system in place to help you measure the innovation output of both yourself and your employees, and keep the organization on track.

2. Responsiveness

Have you ever worked with someone who, in response to your question, often said, “I’ll get back to you on that” – and they never did? I’ll bet you felt not only annoyed because you didn’t get an answer, but also personally disrespected. As if you were insignificant and your new idea didn’t matter.

One particularly insidious pseudo-leader is the bunker. The bunker believes that he or she can hide out, and because they’re not interacting, nothing bad will happen. Of course they’re wrong. Prompt and clear responses to input from subordinates or peers are vital to building a culture of respect and innovation. We owe accurate and timely and complete responses to our team, and innovation leaders make it part of their leadership belief system and behaviors.

3. Reality

In researching many of the innovation leaders of the world, we find that their feet are planted squarely on the ground of reality. They understand their business, the markets, and competition, all in the timeline that it takes to accomplish specific tasks and duties. These leaders have invested in understanding their business, teams, and industrial ecosystems so well that they always know exactly what’s possible and what’s not. This is not a small matter. Team members who are expected to do more than they can really do, or to achieve something that is simply not real, leave organizations quickly.

Innovation leaders know the difference between what’s possible and what’s impossible.
It’s unrealistic to expect a complex piece of software to be fully functional in its first iteration.
It’s unrealistic to think that customers will be overjoyed when you roll out an idea that isn’t relevant to them.
It’s unrealistic to think your people can make miracles happen without adequate resources and backing from the corner office.
To be realistic, you need to be self-aware. You need to engage the insights of your team and you need to be deeply connected to what human beings are capable of producing.

Three Key Action Items

Here are three key LeaderLogic action items that every innovation leader needs to know and practice.

1. Understand that today’s leaders need to have both depth and breadth. They need to inspire, connect, adapt, and respect. Each behavior has three attributes. All are equally important:

Inspire = Vision, Value, Attainability.
Connect = Access, Action, Authenticity.
Adapt = Attention, Humility, Agility.
Respect = Results, Responsiveness, Reality.

2. Create a powerful inspirational beacon that guides team members and inspires innovation.

Is your organizational vision statement both inspirational and aspirational, and does it create a mental image of the future state that the organization wishes to achieve through innovation? The leader at the top must understand, endorse, and promulgate the organizational vision, and ensure that it adapts to rapidly changing conditions, both internal and external.

3. Proactively reach out to engage team members in a way that is relevant to their individual personas, goals, and responsibilities.

With leadership comes responsibility! Innovation leaders earn the respect of their employees and peers every day and with every interaction.

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