Leadership and innovation are two concepts in business that reach across the board. Every company, big or small, established or new, strive to achieve them. So what’s the best way to do so?
In a recent article published in Inside Indiana Business, Robby Slaughter, a principal of AccelaWork, shared his thoughts on leadership and innovation. He discusses the similarities between these two concepts, their significant differences, and lastly, how combining the two can achieve stellar results.
As a large proponent of both innovation at work and being leaders in the workplace, it’s no secret that Slaughter has a handle on the similarities and differences between leadership and innovation. But, before we dive into his thoughts and perspective on the matter, consider first how your company views these two concepts.
- Do you see leadership development in your office? If so, is it negative or positive?
- Are you encouraged to innovate in your job?
- Do you set aside time to focus on either of these two goals?
- Are you confident in your abilities as a leader and/or innovator?
While these questions may seem simple, they can tell you a lot about how you and/or your company weigh leadership and innovation. And understanding this perspective is what can help you move forward successfully in attaining both of these goals. Okay, moving on. Below are excerpts from Slaughter’s article, “The Difference Between Leadership and Innovation”. Consider his thoughts as you read and remind yourself about the questions above.
Similarities between Innovation and Leadership
First, leadership and innovation are both statements about action. A person who is leading is doing something. They are not sitting around and waiting for something to happen to them. The same is true with innovators. People and organizations that innovate are actively working on new ideas. If you’re contemplating something that might change the world but not actually building anything, you’re not an innovator. You’re just a dreamer.
Furthermore, leadership and innovation require total commitment to failure and responsibility. A leader is not someone who does everything personally. Consider the case of one NFL coach who failed to win a single game his entire first season. His name was Tom Landry. Leadership requires accepting that you will not win all of the time, and that as a leader you will move onward to determine what can be done differently. Innovation requires accepting that many new ideas you create will not succeed.
How Innovation and Leadership Differ
If leadership and innovation seem so closely aligned, how are they different? Leadership always requires facing opposition. On the other hand, innovation always requires exploring the unknown.
Leaders have a public role in their community, and through the act of leading they invite criticism from others.
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Innovation, however, can be pursued in relative isolation. You may be the first explorer in a new realm, or the first researcher in a remote area of study. You can innovate with a small team of peers or inside a large organization of compatriots. But in the same way that leaders know they will face opposition, innovators never know what they will discover.
Combining Innovation and Leadership
It’s possible to be a leader without being an innovator. Sometimes, we don’t need to come up with new strategy. Instead, we need to execute the strategy effectively and build up the mental toughness needed to negotiate fairly with those oppose us. It’s possible to be an innovator without being a leader. Sometimes we need to be the researcher who is not limited by outside constraints, free to explore without the constant threat of problems.
The best leaders, however, are also innovators. And the best innovators are also leaders. These are the individuals who are defined by action, who understand the role of failure and responsibility, who willingly face opposition, and who are ready to head into uncharted waters.
In all hopes you find Slaughter’s thoughts helpful, insightful and downright inspiring. Whether you choose to forge a path in your office based on his advice or not, take today to carry his message in your mind. Let it sit and brew. You may just find that the leadership and innovation you’re striving for are right there just waiting to be nurtured and grown.