Leadership: Encouraging Innovation

A friend of mine called recently to discuss his business.

He wants his employees to assume more ownership for their work and take more initiative on their own, without having to be asked to do something.  He wants to lead an organization that produces innovative leaders, not a bunch of managed followers.

Knowing a little about his workplace, I asked him an important question:

“Have you created an environment conducive to produce the kind of employees you say you want?”

Organizational DNA

Organizational DNAThe way an organization is structured (often called the DNA of the organization) determines the type of employee it attracts and retains.

An atmosphere that produces innovative leaders, for example, has more to do with the culture of the organization than it does specific programs or activities the organization does.

Leaders determine, therefore, whether they will create an environment that can produce innovative leaders or whether they will be an environment that merely produces managed followers.

Here are some general characteristics of those two environments:

One That Produces Innovative Leaders

  • More rewarding
  • More entrepreneurial
  • More freedom
  • More encouragement
  • More open-minded
  • More creative
  • More informal
  • More changeable
  • More risk-taking
  • More trusting

One That Produces Managed Followers

  • More oversight
  • More corporate
  • More rules
  • More controlling
  • More closed-minded
  • More defined
  • More formal
  • More static
  • More penalties for failure
  • More critical

I realize there are not clear-cut divisions between the two types of environments.  Obviously “more” is a subjective word, but if you apply these broad characteristics to most major corporations you can probably tell which ones attempt to encourage innovation and which encourage a more compliant environment.

If you are a leader, ask yourself which of the two descriptions fits your organization best. Then ask yourself if this is the environment you want to lead.  (If you really want to know the correct answer, let your employees answer a survey anonymously.  You may be surprised at their response.)

What other characteristics would you add to the lists above?

Ron Edmondson is Co-Pastor at Grace Community Church
He specializes in Communication, Strategy, Org Behavior, Mgmt and Marketing
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Image Sources: eng.unsw.edu.au, cedata.org

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