10 things great leaders do that drive innovation

What are the most important traits for a great leader of innovation.

I asked 25 leaders from across a range of sectors, who know a thing or two about innovation, for their thoughts on the most important traits of an innovative leader.

This is their top 10.

  • They are ambitious to achieve their organisations’ mission with a very clear focus on what must be delivered.
  • They aspire to make innovation everyone’s job.
  • They lead by example, they are visible, they meet people and take time to understand teams, the business, customers, supporters, and service users.
  • They ensure the organisation has a clear focus, a flexible and simple process and structure for idea generation and development of ideas to market.
  • They have a balanced approach to risk, they are prepared to invest time and resource to test new ideas.
  • They are generous in thanking and acknowledging individual and team contribution to innovation, promoting idea schemes and encouraging collaboration.
  • They support time for people to gain insight and explore their ideas and thinking. They know that best ideas do not happen sat behind desks.
  • They give staff permission to experiment, and to fail. They are good at celebrating success and also sharing learning from the ideas that didn’t work.
  • They are deliberate about employing diverse teams with a range of skills, experience and perspectives.
  • They are open to being challenged about how things are done and encourage suggestions on how to make improvements. And then they make them. They act quickly.

Do you recognize any of these traits in yourself? Or perhaps you have more to add?

This article is based on research for Innovation (Still) Rules – an innovation and creativity guide for not-for-profit organisations. You can download the full report for free on the nfpSynergy website.

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