What is innovative leadership?

    In 2014, I wrote about the “8 Characteristics of an Innovative Leader“, and listed those characteristics as the following:
    Models Learning
    Open-Risk Taker
    Team Builder
    Although these characteristics are obviously a part of the equation, could the idea of an “innovative leader” be simplified?
    In the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity“, I define “innovation” as the following:
    …innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative.
    So what does “leadership” mean? Many people have different definitions of the word (this is a great article on “30 Ways to Define Leadership“), but for the sake of this post, I would say leadership is the ability to influence others to move towards positive results.  What is crucial about this idea is that leadership can happen from any position, in many aspects of what any organization does.
    So what does combining these two ideas look like?  Here is a first definition:
    Innovative leadership is the ability to both think and influence others to create “new and better” ideas to move towards positive results.
    Here are the elements that are essential in this definition:
    The ability to think differently.
    The ability to create something from thinking differently (“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison)
    The ability to model this in your own leadership practice.
    The ability to also influence others to do the same.
    That these actions lead to “new and better”, not just new.
    “Results” should not simply read “test scores”; it can be providing opportunities for students to find and solve meaningful problems, finding positive ways to develop community, developing more effective assessments that serve student learning, developing positive inclusive practices in school, or a myriad of other positive ideas.
    Leadership is not about “self”, but others, yet what one models to others is essential in leadership.  We cannot expect others to think differently without embracing this ourselves.
    Just some thoughts on the idea of “innovative leadership” and how “The Innovator’s Mindset” below is embraced at all levels of our organizations.
    Image created by @SylviaDuckworth


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