1. Strategic vision. To be an effective change agent and innovator, one has to be able to describe one’s vision for the future vividly. Having a clear picture of the destination will provide clarity and guidance on the road to follow.
2. Risk Tolerance. Innovation and free-flowing exploration of new ideas and solutions can be a risky business. An innovative leader must, therefore, have a great risk tolerance, and be able to make well-calculated bets.
3. A climate of trust. Innovation often requires some level of risk and sadly not all innovative ideas are successful in the end. Taking the lead on an innovative initiative and venturing down new paths, most certainly will come with honest mistakes. It is, therefore, crucial to work in collaborative, trusting relationships and in open and honest teams to explore the unknown in a safe and supportive environment.
4. Open to new ideas. Innovative leaders strive to create a culture that encourages sharing of new ideas and always being receptive to new ideas, even if it comes from the first level of the organisation.
5. Paying attention. Paying attention means being a keen observer and identifying new patterns and details, which in turns sparks creativity and innovation. The ability to notice things that may have gone unnoticed will help innovation leaders make accurate assessments and come up with new solutions.
6. Being persuasive. Innovative leaders have the ability to inspire others to believe in and to accept good ideas. The key is, however, to not push one’s ideas onto potential investors, team members or other stakeholders, but rather to pursue them with well-presented ideas, enthusiasm and by inviting them to join in the excitement of innovation.
7. Straightforward communication. Being part of a team that is exploring and implementing innovative ideas, can be testing at times. Clear and straightforward communication from the leader is crucial to avoid subordinates feeling overwhelmed and misdirected.
8. Expertise. To be an innovative leader, it is important to have the necessary domain expertise to communicate effectively with one’s team, convey a unified vision, understand the inherent risks and advantages of a creative idea, and to command respect from the team.
9. Collaborative inquiry. Innovations and creative insights come from intelligent and non-judgmental sharing of ideas and an innovation leader facilitates the process of collaborative inquiry and encourages open dialogue between people who are involved in the situation.
10. Understand the importance of play. Routine work and traditional thinking rarely spark innovation. Innovative leaders understand the importance of exploration, experimentation, free exploration, improvisation, and rapid prototyping.