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Transformational Leadership in Innovation

By Lawrence Jones, PhD

Amabile and Khaire (2008) report that creativity means “the ability to create something novel and appropriate” (p.1). Appreciating what each person must bring to the table of creativity is very vital to a leader promoting innovation within an organization. Amabile and Khaire add that the importance of a leader’s role in not only fostering creativity in employees and organizations but specifically engaging the key people to create and innovate.

Countless articles and books have published about the application of creativity and innovation in business, industry, government, and education (Black,2012, p.13).  Black adds that various perspectives of creativity and innovation have debated in the literature depicting the varying values and depths to where creativity and innovation emerge. Identifying what enhances creativity in followers and what discourages creativity is crucial for leadership effectiveness for change.  Transformational leadership has gained recognition in the literature as an inspirational and motivational leadership which is very crucial in the early stages of entrepreneurship and innovation (Gardner and Avolio,1998).

The legendary Schumpeter (1934) wrote that the heart of entrepreneurship originates through the very creativity and networks which can eventually lead to innovation. A current thought leader in creativity, Owens (2011), professes that organizations may unconsciously kill innovation based on their intrinsic culture practices and their unwillingness to try new approaches.  The book “Creative People Must be Stopped: 6 Ways We Kill Innovation(Without even trying)“, Owen writes that some firms may be unaware that a creativity- sabotaging-culture may be affecting innovation. He submits that six constraints can inhibit creativity in an environment, and those constraints are individual constraints, group constraints, organizational constraints, industry constraints, technology constraints, and societal constraints (p. 8).

Owens (2011) explains that individual constraints in this context are when individuals believe that they do not think they are different (p. 8).  Another component for constraints is that groups may unknowingly allow negative emotions to evaluate new ideas.  Janis (1972) proffers that the concept of groupthink is a deterioration of mental efficiency in the interest of the group (p. 9).  The next component of organizations is designed to produce consistent results however when innovation that threatens the output of consistent results then the situation may be grim.  The ability to consider and adopt new technologies may require a proven reliability and effectiveness (Owens, 2011, p.10).

Owens (2011) also proposes that a way to enhance innovations is that an individual must improve their overall cognitive skills and recognize their value and embrace relevant new ideas (p. 10). Another recommendation is that groups must be designed to support collaboration, risk-taking, and transparent communication.  New ideas must be considered legitimate and acceptable. Lastly, for new technologies, there must be significant investment and development (p.12).

Transformational leaders should recognize the importance of creativity in advancing their organizational goals.  By developing the ability to lead for creativity, they will be able to solve problems that matter and to compete effectively in a world where people are looking for products and services that meet their needs.  Leaders should consider steps they can take to foster a culture where creativity thrives and adopt structures to support that culture.  For example, some organizations may benefit from formally establishing creativity teams, whereas others may choose to have innovation departments.

References:

Amabile, T. M., & Khaire, M. (2008). Creativity and the role of the leaders. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2008/10/creativity-and-the-role-of-the-leader

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. Free Press; Collier Macmillan.

Black, R. A. (2012). Keep creativity alive. Communication World, 29(2), 13.

Brown, T. (2016). Teaching Creativity to Leaders. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/07/teaching-creativity-to-leaders

Gardner, W. L., & Avolio, B. J. (1998). The charismatic relationship: A dramaturgical perspective. Academy of management review, 23(1), 32-58.

Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of groupthink: a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes.

Owens, D. A. (2011). Creative People must be stopped: 6 ways we kill Innovation (Without even trying). John Wiley & Sons.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The theory of economic development: An inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle (Vol. 55). Transaction publishers

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