To meaningfully innovate to improve outcomes, the following leadership attributes are essential. If you have all these attributes, count yourself very fortunate. However, since one person typically does not have all these characteristics, there is a need for a “ Leadership Brain Trust “ to better position the organization to increase the rewards from innovation with a top down set of values that include –
1. Customer obsession. Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
2. Ownership. Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
3. Invent and simplify. Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here.” With this, recognize that as we do new things, accept that we may be misunderstood from time to time or for a long period of time. It goes with “ Thinking Different “.
4. Leaders are right a lot – but not always. They have strong judgment and good instincts. But they also seek diverse perspectives and challenge their own beliefs.
5. Learn and be curious. Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
6. Hire and develop the best. Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent and ambition – and willingly move people having high potential throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others.
7. Insist on the highest standards. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
8. Think big. Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. This is another example of thinking differently – and looking around corners for ways to better serve and attract Customers.
9. Bias for action. Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. Highly competent leaders’ intent on making impact recognize the importance of “ strong look ahead skills “ and “ taking calculated risks “ are very valuable skills.
10. Frugality. Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. As has been proven with many game changing technological companies, there are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense. In fact, not being frugal, frequently increases risk !
11. Earn trust. Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, are very interested in exploring new opportunities, and treat others respectfully. They are typically very demanding and can be criticizing. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.
12. Dive deep. Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit / review frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.
13. Have backbone; disagree and commit. Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is made, they commit wholly to it – unless new evidence clearly indicates different. In which case, the objective is then to determine how pivot to make good on an opportunity, or kill a project and assess the lessons learned.
14. Deliver results. Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.
Given the extensive number of qualities needed to innovate for impact and prudently manage the risks associated with change, hopefully these insights are helpful to move your business forward. If interested in developing a better understanding of developing the mindset to meaningfully improve outcomes from innovation, please contact CAIL.
April 28, 2020 – CAIL Innovation commentary firstname.lastname@example.org