Characteristics of innovators
- they have a vision or dream that they want to realize
- they aren't afraid to fail to achieve that vision
- they aren't willing to be distracted from that vision
Begins to sound a bit like a zealot or an evangelist, doesn't it? In many organizations, even innovative ones, sometimes the innovation team needs to have not only a belief in its ideas, but some zeal for the ideas, since not everyone else shares your perspective or vision.
Also, a good innovation leader is sticky. People and ideas tend to clump to the leader because of his vision, and his or her ability to convince others that the ideas they are working on are important and they can be successful. Too often we half-heartedly join a team but have little to gain or lose if the idea succeeds or fails. Cortez burned his boats for a reason when he landed in the New World. Perhaps a little more boat burning is in order in your business?
Finally, a person who wants to lead innovative initiatives must have the ability to persevere. He or she must be able to accept setbacks and continue to press forward. The idea or outcome is what is important, not the little successes or failures along the way. Too often we can be turned aside but small challenges or roadblocks and we give up too easily on our vision. How many times has someone in your organization looked at a new product or service and said - we thought of that first - but allowed some issue or challenge to get in the way of realizing the vision?
Innovative leaders need to be savvy about the culture and understand how to influence and change the culture of the organization they work within, usually by asking questions and begging forgiveness rather than seeking permission. They've got to know when and where they can violate the rules, and when they MUST ask for the ability to color outside the lines.
Innovative leaders are an interesting combination of the consumate inside who has not lost their sense of wonder and is more interested in the success of the idea than the short term gain or loss of prestige. These leaders are people who inspire others to identify new solutions and get onboard with their visions. They are people who constantly say "why not, and why not us?" when others say, why bother?