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Leadership vs. Innovation: How are they different?

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Our own Robby Slaughter is featured on a post at Fathom Voice. His topic is leadership and innovation, and especially the differences and similarities between the two.

He opens the post with a discussion of the nature of these ideas:

Leadership and innovation are both action-based concepts. A person who is leading is proactive. They’re not sitting around waiting for something to happen to them. They’re the first to volunteer and take action. The same is true with innovators. People and organizations that innovate are actively working to generate 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.

Leadership and Innovation: Leaders at Work

© Flickr user Accelerating Change. Together.

Slaughter continues and describes the differences between leadership and innovation:

If leadership and innovation are so closely aligned, how could they be different? Leadership requires facing opposition, whereas innovation requires exploring the unknown.

Leaders have a public role in their community, and through the act of leading they invite criticism from others. If you speak up at a school board meeting, you may be attacked for your beliefs. If you are recommending your product over a competing option, you may have to defend your choices and answer difficult questions about your shortcomings. And if you want your team to be victorious, you have to make sure the other side admits defeat.

Unlike leadership, innovation 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. Leaders often know that they will face opposition, but innovators never know exactly what they will discover. In fact, the outcome of innovation is often finding something valuable that you never anticipated.

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed innovation and leadership on The Methodology Blog. For example, we covered business process modeling and innovation and even leadership in NBC’s “The Office.”

Whatever the needs in your organization, both leadership and innovation are essential. And if you need help, reach out to our business consultants for more information.

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