The Leader Magazine

SEP 2018

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F E A T U R E A R T I C L E 16 September 2018 the leader Take another look at what leads to innovative leadership by Josh Packard W hen you were chosen for your leadership role, you likely didn't realize you were going to have to start over. I don't mean that you would have to learn everything from scratch, but that you were going to have to start over with how you think about work itself. The same task-driven accomplishments that got you to where you are now are not what you are being paid to do anymore. Being great at getting things done is not what is called for in your new role as an executive. You are being paid to think. Typically, if a new position is hard or complicated, people simply work more hours and maybe delegate a few small, low-level things, but rarely do they shift the way they work completely. And yet, a shift is precisely what is necessary. A leader's job is to be innovative and strategic. But the truth is that a lot of what passes for executive leadership comes from people who have simply managed to get more efficient at completing tasks. From the outside it looks like they are doing their part to keep the organization going, but their efficiency masks a deficit in strategy. They aren't moving the needle or growing the bottom line. They're just running in place faster. In our work as consultants, we take a sociological approach to traditional organizational problems that emphasizes group dynamics and structural solutions. We have found that a shift in perspective can change the kinds of solutions people seek to some of the thorniest issues facing organizations today. Innovation will come when you adjust how you work, make an effort to comprehend what you're up against, and actively respond to things you cannot control. o rganizations seek perseverance over innovation The first step toward being strategic and innovative is understanding the organizational dynamics that are working against you and responding to them. You can't control the way organizations operate by nature, but you can use your knowledge to devise strategy and foster innovation. Research by sociologists and organizational scholars has long established that organizations do not naturally support innovation or change. In fact, the research shows that organizations resist change at every turn. Established organizations become so beholden to their tasks, routines and processes, that any activity that diverges from standard operating procedure simply looks deviant, inefficient or unproductive. In part, this makes sense. Once we have developed a best practice, it is only natural to make that practice into a procedure. If a competitor develops the practice, then it only makes sense to adopt it. After all, that is a large While stagnation and death may not come immediately, it is inexorably true that the organization that stops innovating is on a pathway to irrelevance and ultimately to being disrupted by some new technology, firm or visionary leader.

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