Once upon a time, I worked for an organization that wanted to provide a creative environment where employees were encouraged to work together to design innovative ways to improve what they provided to the constituency. Some would call this a learning organization. Perhaps I should say, I worked for an organization whose leader wanted to provide that type of culture. When he left, everything changed.
What does it take to be the leader of an organization that empowers everyone to be innovative while pursuing the mission of the organization? Let me suggest several things.
First, the leader must understand the mission of the organization and clearly articulate it. When the leader is uncertain about the reason the organization exists, she or he can only send an uncertain message about what is important and why. The leader embraces the mission of the organization or finds a way to keep it before employees.
Second, the leader must care about and respect the people in the organization. Not everyone in an organization is going to be a thought-leader, constantly coming up with innovative approaches and “out of the box” solutions. Some are people who contribute by refining, resourcing, and implementing ideas. The leader realizes, however, that everyone has something to offer and encourages their involvement in the design and execution of projects that further the mission.
Third, the leader of this type of organization models self-development and lifelong learning. Most people rise to places of leadership because they have mastered a body of knowledge and are skilled in implementing it in an organizational setting. Once they have reached a place of leadership, some “rest on their laurels” or the accumulated experience they have developed. This way leads to stagnation and disappointment. Leaders of innovative organizations continue to learn about themselves, their field, their organization and their people.
Fourth, the leader of an innovative organization is always looking for someone who will replace her or him. This means identifying effective leaders and then investing in them through mentoring and coaching. This pays off for the leader not only in encouraging the next generation of leadership for the organization but in learning from those she or he mentors and coaches.
Is your workplace a creative environment? What are you doing to make it one?