Leading for Innovation

Growth depends on robust, sustained innovation (Davila et al., 2012). Whether the conversation revolves around a company, church, team, or individual, growth does not occur without change, risk, faith, and an appetite for innovation. Innovation is a part of all aspects of society (Davila et al, 2012), and individual attitudes determine their potential for innovation, creativity, genius, and success (Michalko, 2010). Since innovation is such an important part of life, it stands to reason it needs to be managed responsibly (Davila et al., 2010).

For leaders, it is vital their attention is given to developing a culture open and welcome to innovation, not just tolerant. This begins with how leaders interact with followers (Northouse, 2012). For transformational leaders, innovation is a natural by-product of the leadership style they have adopted. Transformational leaders create a culture where followers feel empowered and encouraged to freely discuss and try new things (Northouse, 2012). Through the use of their strong example, followers adopt high moral standards as well as a self-determined sense of identity (Northouse, 2012) which breeds the confidence necessary to think beyond the boundaries.

Transformational leaders provide a general way of thinking about leadership that emphasizes ideals, inspiration, innovation, and individual concerns, focusing on how individual behavior is related to the needs of others and the shared goals (Northouse, 2012). This allows freedom to make choices, explore possibilities, and dream without fear of ridicule, rejection, and recourse, regardless of how extreme the ideas may be. Transformational leaders understand that creativity of followers is decided by the choices they are allowed to freely make (Michalko, 2010). As choices are made, so is destiny formed…for individuals as well as organizations (Michalko, 2010).

For leaders who are not transformational, what are some practical steps they can take now to foster innovation?


Avolio, B. J., & Gibbons, T. C. (1988). Developing Transformational Leaders: A Life Span Approach. In Charismatic Leadership: The Elusive Factor in Organizational Effectiveness (pp. pp. 276–308). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Davila, T., Epstein, M. J., & Shelton, R. D. (2013). Making innovation work: how to manage it, measure it, and profit from it (Updated ed). Upper Saddle River, N.J: FT Press.

Michalko, M. (2006). Thinkertoys: a handbook of creative-thinking techniques (2nd ed). Berkeley, Calif: Ten Speed Press.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

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