Simple Advice for Leading Innovation | Part 1

Updated: Mar 29

Being empathetic can be a challenge in a business setting, and yet it so often solves emotion-related issues when they arise. It is necessary that leaders are good listeners, the type of listeners others resonate with.


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Building Versatility as a Leader


Starting your own business can feel like venturing into a desert without a map or compass. It is important to maintain a positive spirit in the midst of challenges, and it is helpful to build a base of situational and strategic knowledge to learn from other individuals who have been in similar positions.


Entering challenging new environments often forces leaders to pay closer attention to details, to ask for advice from mentors who are more experienced, and to develop instincts for making decisions despite uncertainty. The ability to tell stories and connect with others is foundational for rallying the troops, focusing on a plan, and gaining momentum.


Becoming a leader and being a leader is a personal and internal experience. We often scan our memories and search within ourselves to crystallize our thoughts and then respond to complex questions posed by others.


Thinking divergently and connecting the dots can often be exhausting, both mentally and physically. For this reason, it is important for leaders to prioritize mental health, physical exercise, and the enjoyment of activities that promote their own well-being. How leaders accomplish these goals varies from person to person, but here are some guiding principles that can help you become a versatile leader:


1. Be adaptable and be willing to make changes


Many leaders have a framework of a routine as a cornerstone within their lifestyle, but sometimes versatility and adaptation are required. Things change! While routine provides structure, it can sometimes detract from flexibility. It's always smart to mix it up a little bit and feel refreshed. Learning on the fly and weaving new concepts into a routine can help leaders be more creative. It doesn't come as a surprise that many leaders have mentioned feeling like a child in new situations, especially when in the presence of accomplished peers, yet they have accepted the reality of "how little they know."


As a leader, it is especially important to be able to see when things are not working and quickly pivot. Being able to accept and make changes will allow you to move faster and galvanize your troops, rather than spending weeks or months pursuing a path that was predetermined.


2. Take time to understand individuals’ working styles and tendencies


Some people need to communicate on an hourly basis to be at their best, while others would rather isolate themselves and crank out what needs to be done, only peeking their head out for quick updates. Or, sometimes people prefer a combination of both. In any case, understanding how individuals on your team operate and how they prefer to work will go a long way in creating successful collaboration and growth. Every person will be different, but it is your responsibility as a leader to create an environment in which each person will thrive. This will likely require having different kinds of working relationships with different people, and that’s okay! There’s no cookie-cutter approach to managing, and catering to your team’s strengths and ensuring each individual feels appreciated and accommodated will help everyone win together.


3. Read the energy in the room


As a leader, there are times where you will have to take the reigns and drive conversations, actions, strategies, and projects forward. However, the best leaders know that there are also times to let others push things ahead while you take a backseat. Whether there’s a topic in which someone is a subject matter expert, an opportunity for someone to develop and grow his or her own leadership skills, or simply a meeting in which someone else is carrying the momentum, there will be situations in which the best thing you can do is to let things take their course. While this may seem like it is not a trait of a leader, it is perhaps the most important one. Being a successful leader isn’t just about taking action; it’s about knowing when to take action, and what action to take.


4. Treat others the way you want to be treated


There’s a reason we’re taught this phrase at such a young age. While it may seem obvious, living by this rule is more important than ever when you’re leading a team. People will look to you to set an example, and it is your job to foster a positive, collaborative environment where your team can have a blast getting stuff done and enjoying the work. The first step to doing so is to make sure everyone feels respected: if you do so, others will follow.


5. Learn from your previous bosses


If you need a place to start, look no further than your prior experience! Looking back on practices you liked from your previous bosses, as well as things you didn’t like, is a great way to begin molding your own philosophy as a leader. Understanding what you liked about your previous bosses gives you a good foundation for how you should strive to treat your team members, and it is equally, if not more, important to recognize what you didn’t like, so that you know to avoid these actions.


Establishing Your Own Paradigm for Leadership


Across all industries and domains, innovative leaders are investing time and effort into supporting others. They are seeking to actively solve new problems and make an equitable future impact. They are striving to cultivate a mindset of continued learning. Many leaders are having conversations and contemplating personal and professional decisions regularly to maintain balance and stay healthy.


There is no singular recipe for leadership. Everybody has their own style and way of doing things, and the challenge is to establish what works while remaining versatile.

Managing large global organizations and teams can carry a significant degree of complexity. When leading large teams or even larger organizations, one-on-one communication becomes more difficult by nature, so leaders need to establish ways to delegate effectively and follow-up with peers to ensure messages are relayed. At the same time, leaders need to remain on top of their markets and the latest technology trends, knowing that conversations shift constantly.


And of course, regardless of the objective, all teams and people within an organization want to succeed and produce positive results, and thus leaders should strive to also paint pictures and be artists, to help everybody understand and contribute to the big picture, the purpose and "why."


Thoroughly understanding people's challenges is at the core of all invention and innovation. When businesses are aligned within themselves, their leadership, and their markets, new positive value can be generated, and thus leaders are driven to operate efficiently and deliver results while balancing various responsibilities. This dedication to constant progression and innovation, both externally and internally, is what defines a leader.


Why Leaders Eat Last


“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” - African Proverb

Serving others is the essential priority for an active leader, as it helps individuals to form meaningful connections, deeper bonds, and real trust.


It is so essential that we understand frustrations that others have, in the workplace, on projects, and from any prospective employee. While the gig economy and virtual office gain more momentum, leaders must learn to adapt to even more types of individuals and be open to new ideas.


As decisions and considerations increase with business growth, it is important that leaders still take time to listen to pain points and connect with where folks are coming from. Most times seen throughout history, leaders must stay focused on root cause challenges while navigating future opportunities.


The Bottom Line


Growing your leadership skills and forging your own path is an exciting, challenging, and gratifying, journey. We hope that these lessons have been useful and help guide you along in your own process. In the next piece, we’ll share some specific resources that have helped us learn and gain valuable insights into leadership.


At Kahana, we live and breathe content creation. We love learning new concepts, exploring emergent trends, and writing about topics that foster creativity and wellness. If you're interested in writing with us or would like to collaborate for your dream business blog, we'd love to hear from you!

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