blogging about DIRECT LEADERSHIP

Innovation and everyday leadership

with 2 comments

This evening I will be co-delivering a lecture about Innovation and Leadership with a friend. While I was preparing it, an article trickled into my mailbox.

The article featured a new book about innovation and leadership. However, as in so many other articles on this topic, the focus was on the top leaders and some key change agents. The article talked about how innovation must be driven by ’heavyweight people’ from within an organisation, how clear goals are required, how the message must be ”sold”. No mention of the everyday leaders (the team leaders and middle managers). The people who ensure the implementation of the strategy. No such mention at all. 

This is not unique to this book about innovation. Most books about leadership address only the top executive perspective and either skip the middle managers completely or leave it up to them to pick what they can use from the other message and leave the rest. The same thing applies for leadership training. The vast majority of such programs either addresses the business champion perspective or takes the self-development lane.

I do not disagree that heavyweight staff must champion strategic change or that personal skills are important for any leaders. On the contrary.

However, I do advocate that we stop taking for granted that the leaders do not need any introduction to the everyday roles, responsibilities and leadership deliverables, for which they are responsible.

We must recognize that the stage upon which the leaders of the 21st century has changed from what it looked like in the past, and – consequently – we need to establish a new narrative. One that will allow each leader to navigate better. At the same time as it creates an infrastructure by which the change champions may implement an innovation strategy or any other strategic changes.

Implementing a new strategy is contingent on three things:

1)      Every leader understands that a new strategy must be seen as a new context, which he or she must allow to colour and shape the day-to-day interactions in the organisation

2)      Every leader knows his/her crucial role of delivering the day-to-day leadership deliverables. 

3)      Superior leaders know how to create a discourse which takes the everyday leadership deliverables into account

With these three elements in place, strategic change may happen and even exceed expectations and goals.

Without them, both implementation and outcomes are likely to be tepid and unenthusiastic.


2 Responses

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  1. Bravo! Thank you for adressing this crucial perspective in the rethoric of leadership and innovation. Innovation is about the transformative change of everyday life and leadership in the organizations. Through communicative interaction and deliverables. On EVERY level in the organization. As of now, innovation is something topmanagers talk about – and more often than not – the line manager regards innovation as CEO-buzz word more than a practice perspective, in which she plays an important role in shaping action, conversations and culture. Let us continue adressing “innovation from the middle” instead of top-down or bottom up.


    Katrine Schumann

    January 26, 2011 at 22:20

    • Thank you Katrine for your comment. I love your domain name – communicate2innovate.dk.
      I guess, our thinking is complimentary.
      Personally, though, I see that innovation and other strategically important choices or changes may be driven from anywhere – the top, the middle or the bottom of an organization. However, either way, it is necessary to have a leadership infrastructure.
      And by this I mean not just having people filling the leadership positions, but making certain that all of these leaders have a common understanding about what they must do in order to transmute the overriding strategy into everyday operational interaction with and among all employees.


      Karin Zastrow

      February 11, 2011 at 19:44

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