How to Be an Innovative Leader – 5 Practical Tips

Leaders have an amazing potential to make a difference in people’s lives. Even our most basic actions can significantly impact clients, create new opportunities, change the world, or bring everything to a screeching halt. We personally choose whether we are leaders who make things happen or get in the way. Let’s look at two leadership approaches that are commonly found in the real world: stagnation and innovation.

Leaders who choose stagnation find themselves continually endeavoring to maintain the status quo. They are often very caring and deeply committed to their organization but do the same things year after year. They cherish tradition and are comfortable with the staff, programs, mission, board, donors and volunteers they’ve had for years. There is little incentive for change in their organization because everything has run the same way for a long time.

An alternative approach focuses on innovation. Leaders who value innovation put systems in place that anticipate and welcome new challenges. They view change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Their organizations tend to encourage finding new ways of doing things and reward creative thinking. They benefit from being nimble and proactive rather than reactive.

The impact of each of these approaches on our clients is huge because we serve them differently if our leadership style is oriented toward stagnation or innovation. Leaders know intellectually that it’s positive to welcome change and encourage innovation but there isn’t a specific template for how to do it. Here are some practical tips to help you continue being an innovative leader.

1. Think outside the box and actually do it. Embrace a philosophy where you constantly seek extraordinary ideas and approaches. You will be better prepared to deal with the issues that come your way.

2. Help people shine. Find out what people do best and let them do it. Get out of the way and watch them grow. Be available if they ask for help but otherwise just let them be great.

3. Give up the need to control things. Let go of power and status and the need to be in charge. Invite new thoughts and perspectives. Remember that the cause you work for is far greater than any one person.

4. Practice excellent listening skills. Immerse yourself in what other people say. They will tell you what you’re doing right or what needs help. Trust that your clients will tell you what they need and your staff will also teach you a lot.

5. Make some new friends and work with them. Partner with others and learn from their experiences. Forge lasting relationships that merge your talents and energy so you can serve even greater numbers of people.

Innovative leaders touch people because they know that leadership isn’t about them, it’s about everyone else. Think of a leader who made a remarkably positive impact on you. They likely took the spotlight off them and let you bask in the glow. The leaders who consistently achieve the best results are those who inspire others to shine.

A major benefit of innovative leadership is that it allows us to do more with less effort. We help our clients more efficiently because we think globally rather than according to some set script. We are more attentive to their needs and are willing to help simply because it makes us and them feel good. We go the extra mile because we are not afraid of the turns in the road.

Innovative leadership helps us let go of stagnation and start breathing fresh air. When we live without limits it opens doors of opportunity. If we shed our fear of change and chaos we get to see the world as a place where anything can happen. Without any boundaries, we are capable of achieving spectacular results. As leaders, we each have the potential to make a dramatic difference in someone else’s life. Which path will you choose?