Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Innovational Leadership

I've had a strong focus on leadership in my personal and professional growth plan lately. This all started with discovering a book in my garage from one of my husband's classes (Building the Bridge as You Walk On It by Robert E. Quinn). Since this discovery, I've poured myself into learning all I can about leadership and how it is playing a role in how I move forward in my life and my career. I've since moved to another book, Creating Magic, 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell and to all the online content I can handle on the subject.

I've found that there is one resounding comment from every source and that is the fact that leaders are not born, they are made. You CAN learn to be a great leader, but you WILL have to work at it. Being a great leader does not happen overnight and it also requires lots of continuous reflection.

As part of that continuous reflection, I enjoy finding online articles in my twitter feed about leadership. I recently discovered one titled 10 Tips for the Innovation Leader by Paul Sloan. I love to find short tip guides that narrow down content into a fast read, but overall, the 10 tips given in this article are fantastic. I think anyone in a leadership position should take the time to read over them and spend some time in reflection about each.

The first two tips are "Have a Vision for Change" and "Fight the Fear of Change". I believe that these play a large role in the success of a leader. There is one statement in the article that I feel needs repeated : "Great leaders spend time illustrating the vision, the goals and the challenges". The overall feel for the path that a group ultimately takes needs some thought and planning put into it. The leader of the group is responsible for sharing that overall vision and embracing the fact that moving toward that vision can be difficult and scary, but necessary. I've found in much of the stuff that I've read that many leaders don't become great leaders because of their fear to push through when change is needed. They may see that the change is needed, but fear of the risk of change stops them in their tracks. I believe, for me, that this also plays into tip #5 in Sloan's article, "Break the Rules".

In reflection of my own leadership, I discovered that I had a fear of breaking the rules, which I am still working on, but have made progress. Just because a rule is in place does not mean the rule is necessary and to be quite honest, in the field of technology I have found that many rules are just plain out-of-date. Sometimes it takes an innovative leader to notice that the rules aren't right and question why they are in place. This has been a hard lesson for me, but I understand the importance of it more every day.

So how am I fighting the fear? In the book I was reading by Robert Quinn, he said to accept the fear that you have and then take the initiative to fight it. Honestly, once I realized that I had the fear and then determined where that fear started deep within (lack of confidence), I made the commitment to myself to work on it. If you have an internal goal to change, most of the time your own desire to achieve will kick in and help you through.

I encourage everyone to take a peek at this article or either of the books I have mentioned. Working on your leadership skills is a great way to improve your life, both personally and professionally and you'll learn a little about yourself along the way!

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