In the 21st Century there are millions of innovators but few authentic innovation leaders, able to inspire and guide innovators and their teams to create breakthrough products with their innovative ideas. The essential elements of knowing yourself and your unique leadership gifts, your motivations, and the purpose of your leadership covered by Professor Bill George, Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School
How is leadership changing in the 21st century?
We’re going from hierarchical organizations of the 20th century to empowering organizations of the 21st century. And frankly, hierarchical leadership is out, but empowering leadership is in.
So you need to think about yourself in that role.
We’re moving away from bureaucracy, and I see bureaucracy as the enemy of innovation, to a series of independent and interdependent units in organizations.
Each of who are working together to create their own innovations, but maybe overall, they’re creating a great system. Like we have in Alphabet, which originated with Google and still contains Google, but has all kinds of creative ideas. From self-driving cars, to expanding the lifespan to 150 years, breakthrough amazing ideas, and these come out of innovative teams. They don’t all come from the top, they come from the bottom up.
We’re going from an era of limited information to one of transparency, and that’s good, so we share information. It’s not about secretive information. We’re going from an era where leaders were thought of as having great charisma and great style.
It’s not about that, it’s being authentic and open. Maybe you’re an introvert. Many of the great leaders are introverts.
There’s no criteria for a great leader. It’s being who you are. But it is important that this is not about your self-interest.
But it’s about recognizing that you’re leading in service to others and a greater cause.
What are some of the factors that are influencing us as we go on this journey?
Well, one clearly is globalization. There are great ideas all around the world. And one of the things we hope to do through this course is bring those ideas and put them on the table and honor them, regardless of where they come from.
The source isn’t important, it’s the idea that’s important. The second, technology and social media are changing everything, even the ability of a course like this to be taught not in a classroom, but to be taught remotely.
And the millennials are having a dramatic impact on our thinking. Millennials don’t wanna wait their turn in line. They don’t wanna wait ten years to get into the opportunity to make a difference.
They wanna do it right now, and I say, that’s great.
When I was 27 years old, I was given the opportunity to run the consumer microwave oven business for Litton Industries. There was no consumer market. We had to create it. And we went from a company that was serving restaurants of about 10 million to about 200 million in six, seven years. That was one of the great innovation experiences of my lifetime.
Frankly, I never designed a microwave oven in my life. But we had the opportunity to design really creative products and to lead those teams.
And then to have creative marketing teams that showed people how to use the product, and that was a really wonderful experience. So don’t let anyone ever say that millennial are too young to take on these responsibilities, nonsense. If you see the breakthroughs of a Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, you get an idea how a leader can mature through the actual experience.
And we should celebrate diversity. Diversity is not a threat. We want diversity of ideas. We want diversity of life experiences, cuz a lot of those ideas come from there. And by having diversity on our teams, we’re gonna have a stronger team. So those four factors are having a big impact on how we think about ourselves today as leaders.
Let’s address the question of why do innovation leaders fail, they don’t fail for lack of IQ. I’ve studied dozens of innovation leaders who have failed, they failed because they lacked emotional intelligence.
What do I mean by that?
Let’s look at some of the qualities of emotional intelligence that lead to failures. They lack self awareness, they didn’t know what they were about, they run an ego trip and it thought it was all about them and they hadn’t made that long journey from I to we. Or they’re unable to face reality that what they’re doing is now working and admit their mistakes and listen to the other people on the team that are maybe telling them, hey, this is not working.
It’s not at all unusual to take a great innovation, try it in the marketplace and find out that the consumer or the customer or the patient in Medtronics case, didn’t work for them.
And you have to make adjustments, that didn’t mean it was a bad idea it just needs to be shaped, and mold it to the needs of the people you’re serving. They may lack of passion for the purpose of this innovation and the solidification on their values on the people on their team, but they may lack of compassion for the people they’re serving or for the empathy for the people that work with them.
And most significantly, I found that innovation leaders, if they fail, it’s cuz they lacked the courage to try something that’s really new on a breakthrough idea, that’s gonna change the world, they pull back out of fear of failure.
So if you think about those qualities, passion, compassion, empathy, courage, these are all matters of the heart. And I think great innovation leaders have to take the head if you will the IQ, and integrate that with the heart.
As someone once told me the longest journey you’ll ever take is the eighteen inches from your head to your heart, and great innovation leaders that I’ve studied have the capacity to take.
Their brains if you will, their analytical abilities and integrate that into emotional intelligence and all of these qualities of the heart.
- So ask yourself, do you have a passion for your work?
- Do you have compassion for the people you’re serving and
- the challenges they face?
- Do you have empathy for the people on your team?
- And do you have the courage to transform the way the world works?
If you have those qualities you’re well on your way,to becoming an innovation leader.
Professor: Mr. Bill George, Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School, former Chair & CEO of Medtronic