Innovation: the Heart of Leadership
Innovation is among the most timeless traits in the fields of business and leadership. Where most people equate leadership with ruthless passion and cold calculation, many skip over the essential step in becoming a leader. When one considers what it takes to be innovative — creativity, passion, growth-mindset — it's no wonder it is among the most sought-after traits. Innovation is an eternal art.
Those with an innovative spirit are restlessly growth-oriented. They create solutions and then seek solutions for the problems their solutions create. Look at some very successful people in recent history: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. They saw a need (needs that are often imperceptible to others), found a way to fill it, and then figured out a way to bring it to the masses.
You may not see yourself coming up with the "next big thing," but bringing innovation to what you do already do is the best way to ensure your staying power among competition and empowered audiences.
Innovations are Just Solutions No One Else Thought of.
I spent many years in the corporate world with a green-grass view of the empowerment field. I figured things might be different -- there might be less pressure to be innovative or create new ideas. That's just not so. In the realm of humanity, you cannot separate expertise from leadership and you cannot have leadership without innovation. We acquire leadership positions by showing that we took the initiative to solve big problems. They don't have to be worldwide problems, either. If your audience is a niche crowd but they all suffer from an issue that you can solve, your solution could mean the world to them (and that's who matters).
I'm not saying you have to come up with the next operating system or social network (unless that's your thing). Innovation grows from bringing your best and bringing out the best in others. If you think ‘well, I’m not in the business of bringing out the best in others,' guess what? You’re wrong.
If you work for a corporation, large or small, and you’re in a leadership position, it’s up to you to bring out the best in others because their successes are the company's successes.
If you are in business for yourself, it's your job to bring out the best in your clients. When clients succeed, you're accredited in their success story — you become a trustworthy source of leadership.
And if you’re in the business of empowerment — whether you are a coach, consultant or a speaker — the essence of leadership is woven into the fabric of your service.
The only question that remains is what are you doing to be a better leader? How are you being innovative?
Let’s consider what it means to be innovative and figure out how you approach this all-important facet of your business.
Are you open to change?
"The only constant in life is change."
It is nature's nature to change. Everything in life is impermanent. Being flexible in the flux of life is arguably the most important trait you can have as a leader.
You can see this is especially true in the business world. Even the mechanisms of how we do business have changed unpredictably over the last decade. Not only do we have to stay on top of how to better do the things we do, but we have to remember that our prospects want to make things easier and more efficient in their own lives.
We have to take the birds-eye view and see the chain for the links. Resistance to change is futile and harmful. The strongest leaders don't fear the unknown. They harness the unknown and make preemptive decisions about how to solve the newest problems.
Open-mindedness sits at the heart of resilience. If you close yourself off to possibilities and solutions, you will be fearful and unwilling to shift your strategies. Innovation dies in the grip of fear.
Tech is quite a task.
Dealing with technology is the biggest issue I see in most modern businesses. There are so many tools and methods and they're constantly coming up with better solutions to communication and service issues. So if you're caught up in the whirlwind of quickly-advancing technologies, hire and delegate tech to others. That's what being a leader is about.
It's not necessary to learn the ins-and-outs of every new software or method. Open your eyes to this rapid-pace world and you'll start seeing places to roost — methods that are better suited for you. You run your business. Delegate the learning or discovery of new tools to others who are better suited. Embrace the opportunity to innovate and make sure your team and your clients are aware of your commitment to keep up with changing times.
How are you reacting to issues or changing circumstances? Are you seeing things through the lens of an optimist or a pessimist? Innovators are able to see the benefits of change as an opportunity to grow, expand and innovate.
Are you being proactive? Are you taking the lead on this charge and encouraging and inspiring innovation within your team or are you waiting until the ideas you can come up are no longer considered innovative anymore?
What inspires you?
How committed are you to your why? Do you know why you want to achieve those goals you have set for yourself? Visualizing what you want is a key ingredient in success. You have to keep that flame alive day and night by rerouting your path when a great wind threatens to blow it out.
When you know what you want, you have to align it with what your clients want. At the center of those two thoughts is a perfect marriage of service and innovation. What inspires your clients? How committed are you to THEIR why? Do you know what their dreams are and what goals they’ve set for themselves?
I feel all of understand that the path to success lies in helping others succeed. How innovative would you be among your competition if you focused solely on helping your clients succeed? Being totally client-focused is an innovation it itself. Compare a shop where you feel welcome and important to one where the associates barely pay you any mind. Which would you rather shop at? I know I always choose the place where service is the top priority.
A Problem is the Heart of a Solution
Make everything that you do about your clients and their success. I guarantee you, you will see that relationship and your bottom line flourish like never before.
The truth is that you're not in the business of sales or technology or (insert your career here) -- you're in the business of service. You don't provide service by being the person with the shiniest new software on the block — you do it by serving others. Make each client your top priority.
Curious: do you know the birthdays of all of your clients or have their birthdays in some CRM system? Can you automate a response or (even better) send a heart-felt message when their birthday comes around? There is no better way to someone's heart than through authenticity. People say that our time is "limited" these days, so getting to know our people is just out of the question.
Invite clients for a coffee and get to know what’s important to them. Ask them what you can do to help them grow their businesses. When you understand what problems they have, you can come up with ways to alleviate the issue.
Imagine the simplicity of knowing what's bothering them. You're not just innovating to innovate. You're innovating in the spirit of service. Don't run around trying to create things that people don't need. Give them what they want and you'll find that people willingly give you leader status.
Let them know you are a valuable and indispensable part of their team. We tend to hear in the business world that you are only as good as your last sale. It's a nice sentiment for the sake of numbers, but what about the stuff you can't measure? That's way scarier to the tech-oriented world of today. You can't build statistics from authenticity and human connectivity. If you base things off numbers alone, you're going to stress out.
Focus on building those relationships starting today and the innovation will follow. You will naturally find new solutions when you understand what problems people are trying to solve.