Leadership involves a number of qualities. But what makes someone stand out as an innovative leader?
Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, authors of “The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders,” conducted a study in which they asked identified leaders, along with the leader’s boss and a number of peers and direct reports, for concrete examples of what the leader did to be considered highly innovative and how he or she differed from other leaders, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review.
They found 10 behaviors that set these individuals apart. These leaders:
- Display excellent strategic vision. The most effective leaders can vividly describe their vision of the future and inspire others.
- Have a strong customer focus. These leaders work hard to think like a customer to find out what the customer would want or need.
- Create a climate of reciprocal trust. Innovation and risk often go hand in hand, and not all innovative ideas are successful. These leaders have good, collaborative relationships with the innovators who work for them, and they know their leader always would have their backs. “People were never punished for honest mistakes,” the article says.
- Display fearless loyalty to doing what’s right for the company and customer. Doing the right thing for the project or the company always takes precedence over pleasing a higher-up.
- Put their faith in a culture that magnifies upward communication. They believe some of the best ideas come from the first level of the company and create a culture to allow these ideas to rise. “They were often described as projecting optimism, full of energy and always receptive to new ideas. Grimness was replaced with kidding and laughter,” Zenger and Folkman say.
- Are persuasive. Following the idea that these leaders project enthusiasm, these individuals are good at getting others to accept good ideas, presenting them with enthusiasm and conviction.
- Excel at setting stretch goals. These goals require people to find new ways to achieve a high goal.
- Emphasize speed. “Experiments and rapid prototypes were preferred to lengthy studies by large committees,” the article says.
- Are candid in their communication. These leaders provide straightforward, even blunt, feedback and answers.
- Inspire and motivate through action. Having a clear sense of purpose and meaning in the work inspires others to follow.