Innovations in Leadership

Ron CrosslandThe insightful comments below are from noted author, Ron Crossland (The Leader’s Voice, Voice Lessons). Enjoy.

I recently read Michael Schrage’s, author of Serious Play (a seriously good book), recent article in Harvard Business Review about the role of surprise as applied to innovation. He asks, “Is it better to be predictably surprising or surprisingly predictable?”

Later the same day, I attended an economic meeting featuring Frédéric Doré, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of France and Mr. Jens Hanefeld, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Germany. They were speaking on the commercial relationship of France and Germany and how these two countries are seen as the core leaders in the EU.

When asked what France’s greatest challenge was for the next ten years, M. Doré said, “I can say it consists of three things. Number one is innovation. Number two is innovation. And number three is innovation.”

That got me to thinking about political innovation, or national innovation. And the next morning I listened to a podcast from the BBC Forum in which three panelists discussed the art of political decision-making. The discussion concerned a variety of methods being used by political leaders around that engage constituencies to derive answers to common problems, build consensus, and stimulate new ideas.

You likely already understand that interesting new ideas often are stimulated by doing something different, visiting a new place, or in my case, connecting unrelated dots. The three things I have mentioned happened in the space of about sixteen hours, seven of them blissful sleep (which definitely impacts innovation).

The idea buzzing in my head as a result of this rich stimulus was this: To what degree do we need to innovate on our ideas about what constitutes leadership? Are we opened to being surprised by new ideas – especially if they contradict current paradigms?

My guess is that you have been exposed to or become a fan of a particular leadership paradigm. And you likely have adopted a preferred viewpoint due to how well the paradigm works, your personal experience, the weight and relevance of the research supporting the paradigm, and the ease with which you can train others in this paradigm.

Innovation, however, demands you test your paradigm. For example, nearly all leadership paradigms label consensus building through common values as a feature. Yet the BBC podcast gave me new ideas of how to create that consensus over the methods most often employed by US companies. And the different methods were derived from different leadership paradigms. In some cases the differences yielded superior results when dealing with large-scale constituencies than what most US based leadership competency models would provide.

Suggestion. Get out of your paradigm. Apply the same innovation process to your current leadership view as you would any other innovation project. Experiment. Live with the sloppy results. Try some more. Re-invent. Don’t just slightly modify your current view with new ideas, engage in organizational forgetfulness and literally try something new.

Surprise yourself.

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