6 Characteristics of Innovative Leaders

Innovation. It’s the key to success that many leaders are looking for. With the pressure to increase quality while decreasing costs, there’s a revolving door of need for new strategies to tackle the complex challenges that the public sector faces. In this environment, innovative solutions can help deal with such challenges and provide meaningful change as a result. The following are six key characteristics of innovative leaders that came to light in a recent survey by [email protected], UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program.

  • Innovative leaders are creative—and embrace the possibilities that abound. They encourage creativity in their ranks and support out-of-the-box thinking. By letting their teams know that they’re open to new ideas and taking specific steps to show it, they empower individuality to contribute to the greater good. With such an approach, they can tap into the power of the workforce, which offers a wide array of skills and expertise. Instead of saying “No,” innovative leaders say “Yes” to new ideas.
  • Innovative leaders are collaborative—and recognize the synergy that collaboration creates. They view such synergy as critical for catalyzing innovation that really has an impact, and create an environment in which sharing ideas and working together is both supported and expected. By understanding the individual needs of their team members, they’re better able to ensure that needed resources are available to help everyone optimally work together. Innovative leaders know that siloes have no place on a synergistic and collaborative team.
  • Innovative leaders are curious—and willing to question everything. They evaluate current realities and deal with broken paradigms by discarding what’s ineffective and creating something new. Even more, they encourage the same behavior in their ranks and support a questioning attitude that fuels new ideas and solutions. Innovative leaders address the sacred cows in their midst and prod them to either join the herd of innovation or move on to other pastures.
  • Innovative leaders are courageous—and embrace disruption as the name of the game. They’re willing to deviate from the status quo by having the courage to disrupt the norm in the name of something new. They challenge their organizations to color outside the lines and reach beyond standard expectations. They understand that a good barometer of their efforts is whether they’re a little nervous about the trail they’re blazing beyond the status quo.
  • Innovative leaders are resilient—and willing to stand up to their skeptics. If there’s one thing innovative leaders can rely on, it’s the persistent gathering of hand-wringing naysayers to tell them “It” just won’t work. Such leaders stand up to their critics and hold their ground with a firm grasp on the ideals that motivate them. Armed with an arsenal of facts, they know the specifics of the strategy at hand and use objective data to support it. Innovative leaders are willing to move forward in the name of progress despite a lack of support.  
  • Innovative leaders are committed—and fully embrace their “why.” They know that it’s not about the bright and shiny, but about making a meaningful impact with the solutions they develop for those who need them most. They make sure that what they create is relevant and easily accessible for those they serve—moving beyond invention to innovation that really makes a difference.

Innovation is one of the keys to meeting the need for increasing quality while decreasing costs. Business leaders who know how to innovate effectively possess key characteristics that help them to achieve it. By following their examples and integrating these characteristics into your leadership skills, you can help propel the innovative solutions that lead to meaningful change in your company.

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