Innovation in Leadership - Why you should do it
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Innovation in Leadership - Why You Should Do It

If you're a leader and your results have been going pretty good. But you're feeling like the number 1. thing that's stopping you from getting to where you want to go is that staff are leaving you and wanting to work with other leaders then stay with me. Because I am going to share 3 simple, innovative things you can do to have people queuing up to work in your team and fast track your career.

In the past, to be a good leader, all you had to do was create a good vision, and great team culture and share stories to help people get there.

Those principles still stand today…But, the team player today expects so much more than just that. They want a leader who is:

  • Innovative
  • Visionary/ tell
  • Understanding
  • Helpful
  • Teaches/ show/ educates
  • Facilitative/ asks
  • Challenging
  • Gets results
  • Not a slave driver
  • Is work-life balance aware
  • Creates projects worth doing
  • Employee engagement focussed
  • Psychological safety
  • Fun

Eeeek! No wonder being a leader is hard work. Kudos to you for being one and wanting to get even better.

If you're leading a team that wants to create business growth innovation, there are some fundamental skills that you should get sorted. And there are some new innovations in leadership techniques that will catapult your leadership results if you learn them.

Now first up, some transparency. I'm not a leadership guru. Instead, I'm an expert at helping innovation leaders become the best they can to get the results they deserve. Fortunately, I've worked with and mentored many of the world's best leadership experts, from which I draw my tips today.

Leaders have vision

First up, if you want to lead, you've got to know where you want to go, which means being able to paint a vision. 

What does the future look like compared to where you are now? What needs to change, stop or start to make it happen? What are the obstacles that you'll need to overcome to get there?

You need to share this vision often in multiple ways. It can be through stories, through a goal/ BHAG/ target written down in a shared space. The stories can be your own or stories of other people who wanted to achieve a lofty goal and overcome similar hurdles to get there.

Leaders tell stories

Stories work because they help people bypass critical judgement and become emotionally attached to the journey and outcome.

Your people are thinking two things when you talk to them about considering doing any new behaviour or

  • Can I do it?
  • Is it worth it (benefits to me)?

You need to keep these two things in mind when determining what story to share, and you also need to construct the story most effectively.

To create a story that enables people to disconnect from their typical habitual activities (anti-innovation) you want to ensure your story addresses these three things:

  1. The Situation - the time, place, who, and why they should care
  2. A Complication - a conflict or crisis that comes up for the hero (could be you or someone else) who has to get through it despite it being uncomfortable
  3. A Resolution - where something was learnt, and in the aftermath, things have changed (usually for the better)

Leaders can shift their communication style

As a leader, you will communicate either one-on-one or one to many.

This may be delivering a rousing keynote to your team (one to many) as to the vision and journey to take.

While individually, you might put pen to paper and write your thoughts and share them with one person.

There are times that you need to train your team around a skill, or individually you may need to show one person a shortcut approach (mentoring).

They're not showing people how to do something, but the modality is different.

Finally, there's the power of using questions to enable people to get the 'aha' moment themselves.

In a group, you may facilitate a session by asking, "What are the biggest obstacles that we are likely to encounter in the project?" While individually, you may act like a business coach and ask, "If you were in the shoes of our biggest competitor, how do you think they would approach this problem?"

Leaders know the difference between a trait and a behaviour

Mia Culpa! I've been guilty of this before. I've asked my staff to step up to the plate to become more entrepreneurial, only to find months later no entrepreneurial ideas.

Why? Because being entrepreneurial is a trait, not a specific observable or measurable behaviour. I should have asked for specific, measurable behaviours that entrepreneurs would do. For example, "Identify an industry pain point for customers that no company has adequately addressed?"

One is measurable and understandable, while the trait is ambiguous and unmeasurable.

Whatever behaviours you want your team to start, continue or stop.

You have to identify what they specifically are so you can measure them and inspire people to use them.

NB: You can find a list of some specific innovation behaviours in  The Relaxed Leaders guide to Getting Anyone to Innovate 

Leaders know the drivers of change
  1. Creating the 'Want to' - this is the motivation, desire, and need to do a behaviour
  2. Creating the 'Chance to' - giving people the time, space and or permission to do the behaviours
  3. Creating the 'How to' - learning the desired behaviour skill or
  4. Creating the 'Prompt to' - every behaviour follows a prompt

Check out this blog for a more complete rundown check out how to run a business growth innovation program with no training, no support and no processes.

Leaders catch people doing good things

If your people are doing good things. Then recognise them for it, and tell other people about it. This reinforces the narrative (story) people have about what type of behaviours you're looking for to get to the goal.

Novelty awards work better than money prizes when inspiring innovative thinking. Think most improved growth innovator award with a special rubber duck they can put on their desk. The research shows this encourages them more than cash.

Leadership means different things to different people
I'll bet you $100 that no one in your team thinks 'what leadership means' will be the same as what you think it means. Leadership to each team is unique and specific because they have had different leaders in their lives, different experiences, and results. 

This is not a bad thing. But it's essential to have a conversation around this so that people understand what leadership means to you and your leadership approach.

The simplest and most effective activity that you can do is run a small session where people write down and then share with the group what leadership means to them. And you share yours as well.

This will make people more receptive to your leadership style. It will also highlight your leadership blind spots that you might need to address. It can also engage specific team members if you feel a drop in output, engagement or communication.

Leaders create a safe and fun space

We've all heard about psychological safety, but how many of us create this for our team? 

The simplest example of psychological safety can be seen in a brainstorming session. Above the fear of dying, the number one fear people have is public speaking.

It's no wonder, then, when you ask the dreaded question, "Okay, does anyone have any ideas?"

You get deafening silence. Because people do not feel safe.

But… If you get them to write their ideas down on a Post-it note, then share them with the person next to them, and next share with a table, and finally share with the group.

You've created a much safer space and place to share. Because the person has shared several times already.

Oops, almost forgot to throw in some fun!

Some of my clients have hardcore work environments. Prison staff, police, and military personnel… but humour helps make these places easier to work in. Think of how you can make your workplace more fun.


I've shared many of the above methods and seen fledgling managers become leadership titans using these techniques. They used to be in a world being ignored, stressed-out people struggling to convince themselves, let alone their staff, to follow their vision. Now they create game-changing results with teams that love turning up to work and are inspired by the vision, support and leadership that they provide for them.

If you'd like me to mentor you or your fellow leaders to create dream growth results via low-risk business innovation, I'd love to help you.

Click here to set up a meeting now.

Please DM or email with your success stories or challenges if you have any. I’m here to help you create results that matter.


Founder, Keynote Speaker, Author

PS: Whether you’re looking for an innovation agency to improve your product with innovation, create an innovation disruption, or hack your business growth, we’re here to help.

Nils Vesk is a Four-Time Author and International Keynote Speaker. Nils has worked globally with over 200 bluechip companies including 3M, American Express, Canon, Caltex, Microsoft, Nestle´, IBM, Fuji Xerox, PWC, HP and Pfizer.

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About Nils Vesk

He's the founder of Ideas With Legs.

His  clients call him a Reinvention Renegade. Nils Vesk is an international authority on innovation and the inventor of the ‘Innovation Archetypes Process’.

Around the globe, leading companies such as Nestle, HP & Pfizer turn to Nils to share his proven innovation techniques for formulating commercial insights, ideas, extraordinary customer experiences and irresistible products.

Nils unpacks the million-dollar innovation principles used to create rapid growth for the future.

Nils is the author of a number of books including "Ideas With Legs - How to Create Brilliant Ideas and Bring Them to Life", and "Innovation Archetypes - Principles for World Class Innovation".

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