In my career, I have seen significant change in successful leadership styles. (I’ll get to that in a bit.) The first thing I do when wanting to address “leaders” and “leadership” is to establish a base line. What is a leader? What is leadership?
Naturally, I Googled “leader” to get a definition. The first definition that came up in the search is very poor. It states, “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” That’s great, but want does in mean to lead? What is leadership?
The second source, Wikipedia, does a much better job with the definition … “Leadership has been described as a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. For example, some understand a leader simply as somebody whom people follow, or as somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as motivating and organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.“ This definition pretty much covers the crux of “The Changing Style of Successful Leaders.”
About 15 years ago, I was part of an elite group of professionals that were groomed as the future executives of a large corporation. The company provided special getaways and training for some select company directors. I remember a particular session where the CEO came in to do a talk on leaders. He started the session off by asking everyone in attendance for the definition of a leader. Finally he said, “A leader is someone that everyone wants to follow.” … An answer no one provided. We then talked about different leadership styles throughout history ranging from fear-induced motivation to charismatic leaders and everything in between.
Today, a successful leader does not simply have followers. They deliver successful results. Let’s name a few continuously (for the most part) successful businesses – Apple. Coca-Cola. Google. Amazon. Starbucks. Disney. Nike. Procter and Gamble. And the list can go on. There is a common thread among these companies … they have all stayed innovative in some manner throughout the years. So to deliver successful results, a leader must keep his/her company innovative.
If we go back to the Wikipedia definition for leader it says that a leader is “somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as motivating and organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.” Now I will categorically say that innovation comes from motivating and organizing people to achieve a common goal as opposed to simply guiding and directing others.
What I am saying is that innovation must be directly tied to leaders and leadership. Leaders need to produce innovation in the name of increased sales, increased profits, increased market share, introduction of a new product or service, or any other company objective. I dare say that innovation needs to be the source of every successful objective and outcome.
This past week, I read an exceptional column titled, “Nine Behaviors That Drive Innovation” by Jack Zenger. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but to summarize Jack suggests that successful leaders drive innovation as follows:
1. Leaders jointly create a vision with their colleagues.
2. They build trust.
3. Innovation champions were characterized by a willingness to constantly challenge the status quo.
4. Leaders who fostered innovation were noted for their deep expertise.
5. They set high goals.
6. Innovative leaders gravitate toward speed.
7. They crave information.
8. They excel at teamwork.
9. They value diversity and inclusion.
Thus successful leaders are not simply followed. They are collaborative team builders that leverage diversity within a group and use empirical data to make keen decisions. When I think back to a number of executives I have worked for I stop to ask myself, “How did they ever get here?” I also remember a handful that were true leaders that always challenge the status quo. They are successful because of their own desire to make positive change (innovation) and not intimidated by others. Now I am sure there will be a number of company leaders that land where they land due to politics and other obscure reasons, but true leaders are distinguished by success via the innovation they bring to fruition yielding strong business results. Thus you can be a leader no matter where you sit in the company organization chart. Work in a collaborative nature and capture the expertise and views throughout your organization. Grab different information and make decisions based upon subject matter experts in your organization. Move quickly and be prepared to deviate based upon measured results.
Make It Happen,