Blog – Leading Innovation

In last month’s blog we explored the vital role of culture in driving innovation and agility within organisations as well as at a broader societal level. Our analysis highlighted the importance of having a culture where people feel able to take risks and try new approaches without too much fear of repercussions. It’s also important that people believe their effort can make a difference and that they can effect change in their organisation. We also looked at the importance of communication in fostering this type of culture.

Leaders GraphThis month we’re digging down to a more granular level and considering the impact that individual leaders can have on innovation within their teams and organisations. Leaders have several roles in facilitating innovation, from actively coming up with a vision for the future and leading others towards it. They also play a less direct role in ensuring their teams are empowered to make decisions and have the freedom to innovate as well promoting adaptability and openness to change throughout the organisation.

To explore this we’ll be using a dataset of 6,100 leaders who have been through the Leadership/Impact® (L/I) diagnostic which measures the individual’s effectiveness, leadership strategies and how they motivate those around them to behave. The L/I measures the effectiveness of leaders in leading and facilitating innovation through 3 key metrics:

1. The extent to which they empower those around them.

2. The extent to which they are visionary and future oriented.

3. The extent to which they promote adaptability throughout their organisation.

In our analysis we explored which strategies had the biggest impact on these outcomes, in other words what are the things that leaders do which separate those who are perceived to empower their teams, have a vision and promote adaptability compared to those who are not. The key strategy that showed a correlation over 0.5 for all 3 outcomes was ‘Creating a setting’. This relates to leadership activities associated with how the leader develops an environment within which people work. Leaders who focused on providing enriching work, empowering their people and being concerned with their learning and development scored strongly on all 3 outcomes compared to those who were more focused on emphasising rules and regulations, leading by process.

The other activity which had a strong correlation to how visionary and focused on adaptability the leader was perceived to be is ‘Stimulating thinking’, with a correlation of 0.58 and 0.56 respectively as well as 0.42 to empowering others. This relates to leaders encouraging their people to be creative, challenge assumptions and view problems as opportunities rather than emphasising more traditional problem solving processes and proven approaches.

Splitting out those who scored particularly strongly on these two strategies demonstrates the difference they make to effectiveness.

So what lessons can an individual who wants to lead innovation take from this analysis? It’s all about the environment you create through your own actions, encouraging your team to think outside the box and approach problems as opportunities, ensuring they feel the freedom to try different approaches rather than encouraging them to do things ‘by the book’. A big part of achieving this environment is pushing development and encouraging people to learn, explore and grow rather than leading by process and procedure.


We’d love your feedback as well as any suggestions for questions you’d like answered from our data. Email your feedback to


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