Strong innovation requires strong leaders.

As I have been working on researching what is necessary to create a successful innovation pipeline in an organization one theme has consistently been mentioned – the necessity for strong leadership.  Many involved note that Leaders who drive innovation work need to be stronger leaders and have fewer deficiencies than their peers running core business segments.  Because innovation work does not share the same scorecard as core businesses it is much more difficult for innovation leaders to measure their team’s performance, understand the many roadblocks to their success, and monitor the team’s emotional state.

As the economy slowed down over the last few years, many I have talked to report that the investment in strengthening leadership skills has taken a back seat in priority to driving P&L performance.   In my personal observation there was both less money to spend toward leadership development activities and it was more difficult to make the time available to focus on the topic.

A few of the attributes for innovation leaders that were specifically called out were: 1) they need to be comfortable not having all of the answers but able to empower their people, 2) they need to ensure that all voices are heard within the team, 3) they need to be politically adept to support their team within the organization, and 4) they need to be able to motivate their teams through challenging times.  This is by no means a comprehensive list but it captures how these leaders need to have a high degree of competence in varying aspects of leadership.

Food for thought:

  • Is your organization continuing to invest in leadership development?
  • How do you measure the performance of your innovation team leaders?
  • Are you innovation team leaders amongst your strongest or are they drawn (or driven) to P&L roles?
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