Traits of an Innovation Leader

“You have no choice about being a role model. You are one…it comes with the job. The only choice you have is which role you’ll model.” — Anonymous

By Bob Eckert – There are core values that are shared by high performing Innovation Leaders (ILs) that are reflected in their behaviors, and thereby permeate the culture of their organizations. With 25 years of helping leaders all over the world improve their ability to grow innovative organizations, here are some practical lessons I’ve learned.

The purpose of this article is to help you find ways to move yourself even more in alignment with them. The challenge is to read this blog not with the intention of looking for validation of where you are doing well, but look at where you might improve. And, of course, you will easily find peers or bosses who are much more in “need of improvement” than you are, but this article is not about them.

It’s about you. There is no valid reason for you to avoid immediately putting a focus on your own improvement. As graduates of our Innovation Leadership Mastery programs will remind us: the leader goes first. That would be you.

When you look at people who are already great leaders of innovation, inspiring great thinking and execution in the people around them over the long haul—both anecdotally and in the research—you’ll see admirable maturity in six dimensions. In today’s blog we’ll be discussing the first three: Humility, Curiosity and Courage.

  • Humility: This is the most important of the values. Without it as a base, none of the other values can be adequately energized. Innovation Leaders have great self-confidence, yet they are very humble. They are willing to admit that they don’t know, and can’t possibly be the best at, everything. That’s why they persistently seek to courageously learn as much as they can, because they know that they’re not finished growing yet. Nor will they ever be. These individuals are very clear that they get stuck from time to time — as does everybody. And as a hedge against that, they have people around them who remind them and challenge them, when “stuckness” shows up. Not “yes-men” and “yes-women,” but people who know that the leader won’t shut them down for challenging them. They surround themselves with “integrinators” (people who will call you on behaviors and verbalizations inconsistent with your stated beliefs).

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