We cannot motivate others. We can provide an environment in which people can become motivated, but real motivation comes from within.
In the same way, a leader cannot make people into innovators. If this is true, then what is the role of the leader in innovation? How much can a leader do to foster innovation among others?
Alec Horniman is the Killgallon Ohio Art Professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, teaching in the areas of ethics, strategy and leadership. He suggests three actions that a leader can do to foster innovation.
First, invite people to join the process of innovation. The innovative leader invites others along on the journey. He or she is not only a role model but a resource, sharing experiences and opportunities. An innovative leader invites others to be part of the process and to learn together. An innovative leader does not just attend conferences and explore opportunities. He or she invites others to be part of these experiences as well.
Second, the innovative leader includes a diverse group of people in the innovation process. Horniman points out that by including people of different backgrounds, experiences, and skills, we can leverage their strengths to create something unique and unexpected. Innovative leaders are proactive in developing a team that is both diverse and inclusive.
Third, inspiration is an important part of innovation. The innovative leader is optimistic, enthusiastic, and hopeful that something will emerge from the process that will make life better for all involved. The innovative leader not only has a vision but he or she seeks to pass that vision on to others in such a way that they can own it themselves.
Are you an innovative leader? If you are, can you be a better one? If not, do you want to learn how to become an innovative leader? Try some of Horniman's ideas.
(A version of this previously appeared on the Central Baptist Theological Seminary website.)