Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | July 23, 2013

Characteristics of Innovative Leaders

Characteristics of Innovative Leaders

This is one of the best articles that I have read on what innovative leadership is all about. The author, Bill George, writes about how to develop innovative leaders in organizations and it is worth a few minutes of everyone’s time.

There are a few things that struck a chord within me.

  • “Research and Product Development are not Innovation” – As the article points out billions of dollars flows into R&D, but rarely does something revolutionary comes out of it. Making a product just a little faster, a little slimmer and a little shinier does not create disruption or progress
  • “Large organizations that are heavily dependent on previous successes frequently squeeze out innovative ideas and the innovators who create them” – Having hands on experience with “raging against the machine” to lead an organization in new direction, this point hits home for sure. It is not because large organizations lack smart leaders. Sometimes these are the same leaders who had come up with innovative ideas previously. But somewhere along the line these leaders start to get comfortable (there is that word again!) and stop doing what made them successful in the first place!
  • “The courage to fail and learn from failure” – We live in a society where from a young age it is ingrained in us what success (read mediocrity!) should look like. Taking risks is not encouraged and in fact there is a conscious effort and encouragement to just blend in. In my humble opinion, those stuck in comfort zones make up good followers. Innovative leaders are those who are not afraid to push the boundaries, get a little scrapped up along the way, but know that the reward is worth it.
  • “The best innovators are rule breakers and mavericks who don’t fit the corporate mold” – One doesn’t have to be crazy to innovate. But you got to be crazy enough to break the mold and go against the grain to create progress.

Imagine for a minute if Steve Jobs or Larry Page or Jeff Bezos or Howard Schultz were not the top dogs who can make their own rules and were just one of the employees in a large organization. What were their chances of success in developing innovative products? Would the leadership at their organization allowed them to break the rules and create products which by all accounts have united and advanced this world?

Are you one of those leaders in influential position in an organization that has the power to allow or destroy innovation? This is definitely worth a read and reflection for all leaders, innovators or not, and one that could kick start your organization towards creating and thriving on progress



  1. Great article Suresh, enjoyed the content and the related article. The last sentence in the second to last paragraph should say “products which by all accounts have” instead of “all accounts has” šŸ™‚

    • Thanks J.K. And appreciate the catch and correction šŸ™‚

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