If Nothing’s Changing, No One’s Leading

Did I miss the memo? When did someone decide that leadership and innovation were separate disciplines? Isn’t good leadership today just as much about managing change as innovation is?

If someone is in a position of authority and nothing is changing, then all they’re really doing is command and control. That may be management but it’s not really leadership. It doesn’t require leadership to maintain the status quo. Most organizations have more then enough inertia to accomplish that.

Leadership is about going somewhere (and taking people with you). It’s about having a vision, and clearly communicating that vision. It’s about motivating people to leave what’s comfortable and seemingly secure for something better, by making that vision a compelling destination.

Old-fashioned leadership models have whoever’s in charge chart a course and then use command and control to get everyone there, like the captain of a ship. Those who didn’t obey were subject to discipline, dismissal…or execution. It’s based on a mechanical view of the world that treats people like parts in a machine.

Those habits are still with us and they’re extremely persistent. Many executives, who would deny subscribing to that approach, still use management techniques that were designed to reinforce command and control management—techniques that are toxic to innovation. Many organizations attempt to promote innovation without dealing directly with issues of leadership and end up quietly, inadvertently killing it.

An innovation culture requires leaders who recognize that successful leadership is as much about influence as control. Who know that they don’t always have the best insights. Who understand that good ideas can come from anyone, and that people need to feel valued for more than merely being compliant.

Innovative leadership is about promoting, harvesting and developing great new ideas. That means properly cultivating the source of all ideas: people. It’s about managing change in very deliberate and systematic ways.

It’s time we considered the term “Innovative Leadership” to be redundant, because if nothing’s changing, no one’s leading.

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