The top 6 skills you need as an innovation leader

The only way innovation can change your company is if you have an innovation leader there to drive it. This week, we explore the skills you need to make that happen.

Joe Brindle
by Joe Brindle
innovation leader

In May, we’re excited to be holding an innovation breakfast event alongside PwC at their offices in London. As consultants advising the world’s businesses on technology and innovation, PwC knows what it takes to become a great innovation leader. That’s why we invited senior consultants David Maloney and Luca Warren to talk about leading the way in disruptive organisations. Without experienced managers in place to pioneer change management systems, you won’t be able to keep up with the pace of innovation in your market.

Looking forward to May has got us thinking about the key skills that we try to embody here at Idea Drop, and the skills we hope to aspire in those we work with. For us, there are two critical skills that an innovation leader can’t do without, plus four complementary skills that separate the best from the rest. Take a look:

1. Critical skill: Vision

In order to lead the way, you have to know the way. Vision is the driver that gives managers the confidence to move forward, push boundaries and create something new. Without it, you can’t make decisions without conviction and take responsibility when things don’t go according to plan.

2. Critical skill: Empathy

To be a leader of any sort, you need to empathise with the needs and motivations of the people you’re working with. If you find it difficult to understand the position of others, it’s going to be almost impossible to encourage them to engage with your vision for the organisation. Businesses are about people coming together to make their lives better; you can’t make that happen for others if you’re not willing to listen to what they want.

3. Communication

Vision is one thing, but if you’re going to get stakeholders on your side, you need to communicate that vision with clarity and purpose. Good communication is all about being concise, specific and working with your interlocutors to help keep everyone on the same page. Whatever channels you use to communicate, you should be a master of all of them.

4. Completionism

Completionism is the opposite of perfectionism – a powerful urge to get things done and signed off. Some people are blessed with the drive to never stop until a job is finally put to rest, and it’s an asset you should cultivate as far as you can in your day- to-day life. Remember, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing it badly.

5. Salesmanship

Many people with strong vision and great empathy still fail to get their ideas off the ground. Why? Because they never learned how to sell them to other people. Good salesmanship requires a little bit of everything on this post, but it’s a skill that you’ll need to be conscious of constantly as you work towards stakeholder buy-in, especially if you’re your organisation’s sole innovation leader.

6. Systems thinking

Innovation isn’t about getting one great idea every now and then. It’s about systematically generating ideas over a long period of time and having them ready when you need them. And that goes for all the other aspects of your innovation pipeline too – the processes need to be in place to get moving when you need them. For that, you need to be a good designer of systems. That’s precisely why we made Idea Drop – to make innovation simple even when your company is facing its biggest challenges.

All the skills in this list are things you can build with time and practice. Try making a list of each of the attributes and grading yourself out of ten. It’ll give you a great idea of where you can improve the quickest.

If you’d like to know more information about the Innovation Breakfast in May, drop us a line in the chat box below. We’re always excited to hear about your next innovation superstars.

Capture and action the best ideas from your people.

Crowdsource, curate and implement the best ideas from across your teams to grow your business faster.