You do not grow a plant by pulling on it
The Work Foundation publishes the results of an interesting study: Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership. Amongst the differences that make the difference between good and great leadership, I picked this distinction: Delegate task v. Delegate space for autonomy
The distinction most definitely applies to innovation leadership. You do not grow a plant by instructing it to do so, or worse by pulling on it. You do not get people to innovate by tasking them with innovating. You grow a plant by providing the Soil, the Space, the Sun… and letting it happen (see the innovation gardener). You foster innovation by providing:
- the Soil – access to internal and external knowledge and experiences where people can extend their roots,
- the Space – the autonomy, as opposed to breathing down their neck,
- the Sun – letting people draw their energy from their own passions,
- the Strategy – direction and challenge.
… and letting it happen.
Great leadership in general and innovation leadership in particular call for leaders to invest their energy and trust in people, not in action lists and delegation tracking systems.
“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” Albert Einstein.
An executive summary of the study can be found at the Work Foundation.