A leader takes people where they want to go. 
A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

— Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady

The innovation leader seeks to combine various leadership styles to influence positively and inspire employees to unlock their individual and collective creativity. 

Difference Between Leaders and Managers 

Is there really a difference between being a manager vs. being a leader? Don’t both roles require the management of a team? 

While these two terms have been used synonymously in the past, it’s become clear that they have their differences. A role where you manage people doesn’t automatically make you a leader. Being a manager simply means you have the authority to direct and delegate while leaders are the ones who have the power to inspire, lead by example, and build relationships. 

The way of the typical manager is to create goals while leaders create a vision. While managers are controlling risk, leaders are taking risks. And while managers direct their employees to perform, leaders coach their team to succeed.  

When you examine what seem like subtle differences, you come to recognize that the path of the leader is the one that enjoys more results as it focuses more on the capabilities and potential of the team behind the output. Employees who are led by leaders rather than directed by managers are happier, feel more empowered, and therefore, are more productive. 

Are You an Innovation Leader? 

High-performing innovation leaders can be identified by core values that are reflected in their behaviors, actions, and decisions. The following are traits that are shared by the most innovative leaders today and throughout history: 

Courage 

Many people fear change. Innovative leaders fight in the face of this fear rather than flee from it as many people would. They’re not afraid to ask questions in their quest to understand more. They don’t fear failure as they see it as a valuable opportunity to grow. They’re not afraid to expose their vulnerabilities especially if it means they can learn from experience. 

Humility

Leaders must be confident but also self-aware and humble. The innovation leader is ready to admit when they don’t know something, humble enough to ask for help, and grateful enough to be thankful for the opportunities to develop their understanding and skills. 

Integrity 

Innovation leaders are consistent in their actions, methods, and principles. They have a deep commitment to doing the right thing for the right reasons regardless of the circumstances demanding that they act out of character. They stay firm in their resolve. 

Tenacity 

Innovations leaders don’t easily give up or crumble under pressure. They find ways to get others who recognize the value of their ideas even if it means trying again and again. They don’t easily abandon their mission out of frustration or boredom. 

Curiosity

Average leaders are satisfied with conventional processes and stop once they’ve achieved the basic requirements to perform their jobs. The innovation leader is continually seeking creative approaches, fresh perspectives, and compelling dialogues. 

For the traditional manager who wants to work towards becoming an innovation leader, the mentioned traits are achievable when approached with an open mind and a willingness to embrace change. It starts with recognizing that it is a process of self-improvement and displaying resilience and true grit. Don’t be afraid of constructive feedback that can be empowering when accepted with humility and the right attitude.  

Self-Reflection Question: Are you an Innovation Leader?