Leading an Innovative Team

Creativity and innovation are crucial for driving growth and staying competitive in today’s rapidly evolving world. Most people would say that’s true especially for companies that manufacture products. But it’s true for all organizations; for profit companies, nonprofit organizations and government entities. 

Change is everywhere and it’s picking up stream. AI is rapidly changing everything. Everything! An organization’s ability to apply AI in the near future will determine their ability to survive. The ability to adapt and apply the benefits of AI will require unparalleled creativity and innovation. That will add to the pressure on leadership teams everywhere. 

So here are a ten strategies to encourage and support creativity and innovation within your team. 

  • Create a work environment that values and encourages creativity. Ensure team members feel safe to express their ideas without fear of judgment or criticism. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and a culture of experimentation.
  • Clearly define the team’s goals and objectives while allowing room for creative problem-solving and innovation. Provide a sense of direction and purpose to guide your team’s efforts towards innovative solutions. Remember, even if something is not done “your way” doesn’t mean it wasn’t done the best way. 
  • Embrace diversity within your team, including diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. Diverse perspectives bring fresh ideas and approaches to the table. That fosters creativity and innovation. Encourage open discussions, active listening, and the sharing of different viewpoints. If everyone is thinking the same then it’s very likely that most of them aren’t thinking. 
  • Promote a culture of continuous learning and professional development. Provide opportunities for team members to acquire new skills, attend workshops or conferences, and explore new areas of knowledge. Encourage individuals to share their learnings with the team.
  • Provide autonomy and ownership to team members in their work. Trust their judgment and empower them to make decisions and take calculated risks. Encourage initiative and give individuals the freedom to explore their ideas.
  • Set aside dedicated time for creative thinking and innovation. Allow team members to work on passion projects or explore new ideas outside their usual responsibilities. Consider implementing brainstorming sessions, hackathons, or innovation workshops to stimulate creativity. Creativity takes time, as a leader it’s up to you to provide that time. 
  • Acknowledge and reward innovative ideas and solutions within the team. Recognize and celebrate team members who contribute innovative ideas or demonstrate creative problem-solving. This can be done through public recognition, rewards, or even small incentives. Even small ideas can turn into big successes. 
  • Ensure that your team has the necessary resources, tools, and support to pursue their creative ideas. This may include providing access to research materials, funding for experiments or prototypes, or allocating that dedicated time for innovation projects.
  • Encourage a mindset that views failure as an opportunity for growth and learning. Create a culture where team members feel comfortable taking risks and learning from their mistakes. Encourage reflection and sharing of lessons learned from both successful and unsuccessful endeavors.

Remember, leading creative and innovative teams is an ongoing process. You should continually assess and adapt your strategies based on the dynamics of your team. Keep in mind the changing business landscape as well. By creating an environment that nurtures and supports creativity, you can unlock the full innovative potential of your team and use AI to it’s full potential too.

Self-Aware Leadership

Self-awareness is a key part of Emotional Intelligence. If you don’t know yourself, it will be hard to build the trust required to build solid relationships. That’s why self-awareness is a crucial attribute for effective leadership. It’s about knowing your strengths, weaknesses, emotions, values, and the impact you have on others. 

Here are some of the reasons why self-awareness is important for a leader.

  • Self-awareness allows leaders to continuously grow and develop. By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, leaders can identify areas for improvement. Then they can take appropriate actions. This commitment to personal growth sets an example for others. It builds a culture of continuous improvement within the organization.
  • Self-aware leaders have a deep understanding of their values, beliefs, and principles. This self-knowledge helps them align their actions with their core values. That helps them lead with authenticity. When leaders are authentic, they inspire trust. They build stronger relationships, and create a positive work environment.
  • Self-awareness is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. Which as I’ve written before, is the ability to recognize and manage your emotions. and the emotions of others. Leaders who possess emotional intelligence can accurately perceive and understand their own emotions. That is what allows them to regulate their responses effectively. This skill is crucial in high-pressure situations. It helps leaders remain composed and make rational decisions.
  • Self-awareness enables leaders to empathize with their team members and understand their perspectives. By recognizing their own biases and limitations, leaders can approach situations with empathy. That helps them treat individuals with respect and fairness. This fosters a sense of belonging, encourages collaboration, and enhances team performance.
  • Self-aware leaders are aware of how their words and actions impact others. They are attentive to their communication style. They adjust it to different situations and individuals. By being aware of their own communication patterns, leaders can ensure that their messages are clear, respectful, and well-received. This facilitates better understanding, reduces misunderstandings, and promotes effective teamwork.
  • Self-awareness enhances a leader’s ability to make sound decisions. When leaders have a deep understanding of their values, biases, and limitations, they are less likely to be swayed by external pressures or other people’s personal agendas. Instead, they can make decisions that align with their vision and are in the best interest of their team and organization.
  • Self-awareness allows leaders to recognize their own strengths, which boosts their self-confidence. Self-aware leaders are more open to feedback, which enables them to learn from failures and adapt their approach when needed. This has never been more important than in the constantly changing business environment we work in today.

In the all-time classic Christmas Movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” Clarence the Angel is told “if you’re going to help someone you need to know something about them.” That’s truer than true. It also applies to to you and me. If we’re going to help ourselves we need to know something, a lot of somethings, about ourselves. 

You won’t be certain that you’re being the very best version of yourself until you know exactly what that very best version is. That’s what self-awareness will really do for you, help you be all that you can possibly be.

Developing Future Leaders

One of the surest ways to “future proof” your organization is to make developing your future leaders a daily activity. Every day! Not when you “find” time, not when you “make” time and not tomorrow. Today and everyday.

If you’re looking at developing future leaders as an expense, even a necessary one, then frankly, you’re looking at it wrong. The development of future leaders is an investment, it’s the one investment that is sure to provide a high rate of return. For your organization, for you, and for your future leaders. 

If you’re serious about creating the next generation of leaders in your organization then here’s a path you may want to consider. 

  1. Identify potential leaders. Not all people are cut out to be leaders, so it’s important to identify those who have the potential to be successful in leadership roles. Some qualities to look for include:
  • Strong communication skills
  • The ability to motivate and inspire others
  • A clear vision for the future
  • The ability to think strategically and make decisions
  • The ability to work well under pressure
  • The ability to build relationships and collaborate with others
  1. Create a leadership development program. Once you’ve identified potential leaders, you need to create a program that will help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to be successful. This program should include a variety of elements, such as:
  • Formal training courses
  • On-the-job training
  • Mentorship programs
  • Networking opportunities
  • Coaching and feedback
  1. Provide opportunities for growth. One of the best ways to develop future leaders is to give them opportunities to grow and develop their skills. This could include:
  • Assigning them to challenging projects
  • Giving them more responsibility
  • Promoting them to new positions
  • Sending them to conferences or training programs
  1. Provide opportunities. There is little point to developing future leaders if you’re not providing them opportunities to truly try out their new skills. Let your future leaders lead today! This could involve leading projects, teams, or even departments. By giving your people the chance to lead now, you can help them develop the skills and experience they need to be successful in future leadership roles.
  1. Provide feedback. Feedback is essential for helping leaders develop and improve. Make sure to provide regular feedback to your future leaders, both positive and negative. This will help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, and make the necessary changes to improve their performance.

This path could lead to the successful development of your future leaders but there is one key element to keep in mind. Make certain your future leaders and being led and not managed. It is vital that they see leadership in action. If the person your future leader is reporting to is a poor leader or a leader due only to their position within the organization, the potential of your future leader is unlikely to be achieved. 

Leaders help create the next generation of leaders. Don’t expect today’s poor leader to develop tomorrow’s Authentic Leader. It doesn’t work that way. When you have your future leaders reporting to today’s excellent leaders you’ll have the chance for excellent leadership in your organization for years to come. 

How to Delegate Successfully 

There are people in leadership positions who use delegation as a tool to dump undesirable work on people they don’t particularly care for. But when used properly, the way Authentic Leaders use it, delegation can be a powerful tool to grow your future leaders. It not only builds their skills, it grows their confidence and keeps them engaged. Plus, it frees the leader to do something that their people can’t do. 

Here is a reality of leadership. This is true regardless of the size of your organization. As a leader, you should not be doing anything that one of your people has the ability to do. You should be doing the things that only you can do. If you’re doing something that someone else could do then the things that only you can do are not getting done. That adds unnecessary stress and results in lower overall productivity. That is NOT a recipe for growth in your organization. 

Here are some proven best practices to help you delegate more effectively and empower the people you lead.

  • Know what to delegate. Not every task can be delegated. Some tasks are too important, too sensitive, or require too much of your expertise. However, there are many tasks that can be delegated to others, freeing up your time to focus on the most important things.
  • Play to your people’s strengths and goals. When delegating tasks, consider their strengths and goals. Delegate tasks that are aligned with their skills and interests. This will help them feel more engaged and motivated.
  • Define the desired outcome. When delegating a task, be clear about the desired outcome. What do you want the person to accomplish? What are the specific goals or objectives? The clearer you are about the desired outcome, the easier it will be for the person to complete the task successfully.
  • Provide the right resources and level of authority. In order to be successful, the person you delegate to needs to have the right resources and level of authority. This may include access to information, equipment, or people. It may also mean giving them the authority to make decisions and take action.
  • Establish a clear communication channel. It’s important to establish a clear communication channel with the person you delegate to. This will help you stay updated on their progress and provide them with support when needed.
  • Trust your people. The most important thing is to trust your people. When you delegate tasks, you’re essentially giving them your trust. This shows that you believe in their abilities and that you’re willing to let them take ownership of their work.
  • Give them opportunities to learn and grow. One of the best ways to empower your people is to give them opportunities to learn and grow. This could involve providing them with training, mentoring, or opportunities to take on new challenges.
  • Encourage them to take initiative. Another way to empower your people is to encourage them to take initiative. This means giving them the freedom to make decisions and take action without having to ask for permission.
  • Celebrate their successes. When your people succeed, be sure to celebrate their successes. This will show them that you appreciate their hard work and that you’re proud of what they’ve accomplished.

As a leader you may be tempted to think that you and you alone can grow your business. You can to a point but one of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is not letting go of some decisions. Regardless of the size of your business you cannot do it all. The sooner you begin to use delegation to grow your people the sooner they will help you to grow your business.  

Building Trust in Leadership 

Integrity is the single most important ingredient for Authentic Leadership. From integrity springs trust and absent trust there can be no actual followership. For a leader to truly lead they need the commitment of the people they lead. 

People cannot commit to someone they do not trust. It is emotionally impossible. When people trust their leaders, they are more likely to be engaged, productive, and willing to go the extra mile. 

There are many things that leaders can do to build trust, here are a few of them.

  • Be honest and transparent. Leaders should always be honest with their people, even when it is difficult. They should also be transparent about their decision-making process and why they are making the decisions they are making.
  • Be consistent. Leaders should always follow through on their promises and commitments. If they say they are going to do something, they should do it.
  • Be fair and just. Leaders should treat all of their people fairly and justly, regardless of their personal feelings or opinions. Whether you like them or not has nothing to do with leading them.
  • Be open to feedback. Leaders should be willing to listen to feedback from their people, even if it is negative. They should also be willing to make changes based on feedback.
  • Be supportive. Leaders should be supportive of their people, both professionally and personally. They should be there to help them succeed and to provide them with the resources they need to do their jobs.
  • Be humble. Leaders should be humble and recognize that they do not have all the answers. They should be willing to learn from anyone and to admit when they are wrong.

Building trust takes time and effort, but it is worth it. When people trust their leaders, they commit to them. It’s a fool’s errand to try and get people to commit to a company or brand. People can only truly commit to other people. Absent trust, there simply can be no commitment. 

So here are some additional tips for building trust as a leader.

  • Get to know your people. Invest the time to get to know them on a personal level. This will help you build relationships with them and to understand their needs and concerns.
  • Delegate tasks and responsibilities. When you delegate tasks and responsibilities to your team, you are showing them that you trust them. This will help build their confidence and make them feel valued.
  • Recognize and reward good work. When your people do a good job, be sure to recognize and reward them. This will show them that you appreciate their hard work and that you are committed to their success.
  • Be a role model. As a leader you’re leading by example whether you know it or not. Whether you intend to or not. Leaders should set a good example for their people. This means being honest, ethical, and responsible. ALL THE TIME. It also means being someone that your people can look up to and respect.

Building trust is critical if you hope to be a successful leader. By following these suggestions, you can build trust with your people and create a culture of caring honesty and growth.

Why EQ Matters in Leadership

Managing is about stuff. We manage stuff like budgets, buildings and inventories. While we may get emotional over too much inventory we never have to worry about inventory getting emotional with us when we decide to have a sale to “blow out excess inventory.” 

Leadership on the other hand is all about people. People, like you and me and every other human being on the planet are emotional. That’s why EQ matters so much in leadership. 

Emotional intelligence, often referred to as EQ (emotional quotient), is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions in yourself and others. It plays a crucial role in effective leadership for several reasons.

  • Leaders with high emotional intelligence are self-aware and understand their emotions. They know how they impact others. This self-awareness allows them to manage their behavior. They make conscious decisions rather than being driven solely by their emotions. They can accurately assess their own abilities and set realistic goals. This leads to better decision-making and overall effectiveness.
  • Leaders with emotional intelligence have the ability to empathize with others. That means they can understand and relate to their emotions and perspectives. This enables them to build strong relationships. They connect with their team members, and create a supportive work environment. By showing empathy, leaders can build trust, loyalty, and cooperation. All of which are essential for team collaboration and productivity.
  • Emotional intelligence enhances a leader’s communication skills. They can express their thoughts and ideas clearly, while also actively listening to others. Leaders who are tuned into the emotions of their team members can tailor their communication style to address individual needs. This ensures that their messages are well-received and understood. Effective communication is key to collaboration, reducing conflicts, and promoting a positive work culture.
  • In any organization, conflicts are bound to pop up. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can handle conflicts and difficult situations with finesse. They can understand the underlying emotions and perspectives of those involved. They can respond in a calm and empathetic manner. By creating open dialogue and finding mutually beneficial solutions, emotionally intelligent leaders can resolve conflicts more effectively and maintain a healthy work environment.
  • Emotional intelligence enables leaders to navigate change and uncertainty. They can manage their own emotions and help others deal with challenging situations. By demonstrating adaptability and a positive attitude, they inspire and motivate their team members to embrace change. They encourage them to overcome obstacles and stay focused on achieving their goals.
  • Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to inspire and motivate their team members. They can tap into their emotions and aspirations and align them with the organization’s vision. They can provide meaningful feedback and recognition. By recognizing and appreciating the contributions of their team, emotionally intelligent leaders create a sense of belonging.

Leaders who possess a high EQ are better equipped to build strong relationships with their people. The lead teams more effectively. They create a positive and productive work environment. They understand the differences between authentically leading people and trying to manage them. If you don’t understand the difference between the two it’s very likely you are trying to manage people rather than lead them. That means you have an opportunity to improve. 

Whether or not you seize that opportunity is completely up to you. I hope for your people’s sake you do.