Innovative Leadership

That’s the name of the Leadership Centre I look after and sometimes (but not often) I get asked the question:  So what is innovative leadership?We’ve run the inaugural general management programme this year with one module to go – it’s called the Innovative Leaders GM Programme – it’s a special leadership programme with a focus on strategy and business functions. There’s a reason why it’s called the Innovative  leaders programme and that’s tied in with research that says that innovation is the top skill CEOs are looking for. You might be thinking – well I don’t know where to start, or my role is such that the risk needs to be carefully managed so innovation is not for me. Not necessarily.

Leaders who facilitate innovation are as important (and possibly more important) than those that do it.  I try to role-model what we’re aiming to get our participants to do and on our recent module in Queenstown exploring marketing I threw away many of the things that you might expect on a University-run programme. We did interesting things that others do too – like case studies – but we did them on-site (as we always try to do) and we don’t bother writing up a whole lot of stuff. Innovative Leaders learn by asking why. We had a venue as a base  – but the venue is also a case study so we interacted with the owners and staff who give us direct and important insights on customer experience. Hey! that’s marketing, so we’re learning while being clients and then feeding back with mock up strategies ready to use. Venue becomes tutorial room, customer experience “on the spot”, panelist provider and case.  Others heard of our visits so we carried out field case studies – presenting back on the go and in the premises.  Networks were engaged for a Mihimihi to welcome us to Ngāi Tahu. We sought explanations and asked why where we went – learning about Bungy Strategy and restaurant marketing during our time in Queenstown. Wide and varied contacts on networks came together for the best 48 hours of learning I reckon you could ever have on marketing and leadership.

There’s more to this story which I’ll talk about soon. In the meantime, think about how you will facilitate innovation:

  • Associating – the ability to connect seemingly unrelated events
  • Questioning – why?
  • Observing – going “to the spot”
  • Experimenting – making a mock up
  • Networking – widely and not always for a particular purpose


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