“Leaders do not do different things; they do things differently”
Opening Case Study :
Thomas Edison –A True Innovator
Thomas Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio, and grew up in Port Huron, Michigan. There are many stories about what Edison was like as a child. They all show that from an early age, he was curious about the world around him and always tried to teach himself through reading and experiments. As a boy, he worked as a gatekeeper at his father’s observatory for tourists, and worked on a railway selling newspapers and candy to passengers. When Edison was 22, in 1869, he patented his ﬁrst invention and advertised that he “would hereafter devote his full time to bringing out his inventions.”
With 1,093 patents to his name, Thomas Edison remains the most proliﬁc inventor in American history. It wasn’t just the huge number of patents that propelled him to greatness, though. Rather, it was the fact that so many of his breakthroughs had such profound impacts on our everyday lives.
His best-known invention was the ﬁrst commercially viable incandescent light bulb. But much of what afforded Edison’s light bulb its success was his brilliance in creating equally viable electrical systems – the widespread systems on which electricity is distributed throughout our communities.
Edison had an uncanny knack for recognizing a consumer need, then creating a product to satisfy that need. It was a
gift that revealed itself in his youth. As a young boy, he traveled back and forth on trains between Detroit and his home in Port Huron, 60 miles away. He sold fresh vegetables when he arrived in Detroit, then returned to Port Huron with copies of the very latest editions of Detroit newspapers. Before long, he hired other young people to help expand his burgeoning empire.
Supremely conﬁdent and unfailingly optimistic, Edison was consumed by a need to ﬁnd solutions. And not just any solutions. They had to be practical, level-headed solutions that had some likelihood of being accepted by consumers. If not, Edison wasn’t interested.
It was a point of view he developed early in his career. Edison’s very ﬁrst patent was for a vote recording machine. It was a clever device that would radically reduce the time it took to tabulate votes. More important, it was accurate and promised to eliminate the possibility of vote fraud.
But as Edison soon learned, 19th century politicians weren’t enthusiastic about a machine that would ensure honest ballot-counting. As a result, there was absolutely no market for his brilliant invention.
“So, he learned a very early lesson from that,” says Marc Greuther, Chief Curator at The Henry Ford, “which is there’s no point inventing something that people really don’t want.”
Edison was an eminently practical technologist, though he was guided more by instinct than book-learned knowledge. As a result, he mastered the art of selling himself as much as he did any one product. He understood that, to the mass audience he was determined to serve, the Edison name was one that evoked a sense of ingenuity and progress.
Who are innovative leaders? What are their qualities and how do they drive innovation within an organization? Here is an attempt to explain.
The word “innovator,” to describe a leader, is used far too widely these days. Usually, when people speak of innovators, what they really mean are “creative thinkers.” in other words, people who are able to generate creative ideas that become the basis of innovations. Sometimes, however, what people mean by “innovator” is what we will call an “innovative leader.” Classic examples of innovative leaders include people like Steve Jobs (Past CEO of Apple) and Thomas Alva Edison (who commercialized electric lighting and many related things). Innovative leaders are creative visionaries who have big ideas and, most importantly, can motivate people around them to turn those ideas into reality.
The innovative leader needs a powerful imagination and excellent communications skills. He also needs to have conﬁdence in his team and their ability to work together to achieve that dream.The innovative leader is not a micro- manager. He focuses on the big picture and works with creative thinkers who can add to that vision and make it greater. Micro- managers, on the other hand, tend to stiﬂe creativity and focus far too much on the details – causing them and their teams to lose sight of the big picture.
Perhaps most importantly, the innovative leader needs to be able to communicate his vision and generate enthusiasm for it. His team needs to be able to see the vision themselves and be willing to invest their own time and resources into making it happen. Innovative leaders know that leadership by demand is far less effective at encouraging creativity and innovation than is leadership through motivation and inspiration.
The 5 Skills That Innovative Leaders Have in Common are as follows:
1. Manage Risk
Innovative leaders scored 25% higher than their non-innovative counterparts on managing risk. Innovative leaders are bold when it comes to experimenting with new approaches. However, they will initiate reasonable action when potentially negative consequences are expected. When risks do present themselves, they develop plans to minimize the risk and identify where it is needed most.
2. Demonstrate Curiosity
Innovative leaders also scored higher in terms of demonstrating curiosity. They exhibit an underlying curiosity and desire to know more. These leaders will actively take the initiative to learn new information, which demonstrates engagement and loyalty to company goals. Keeping their skills and knowledge current gives them the competitive edge they need to lead effectively, and also stimulates new ways of thinking in other workers.
3. Lead Courageously
Innovative leaders are proactive and lead with conﬁdence and authority. They turn tough circumstances into prime opportunities to demonstrate their decisive capabilities and take responsibility for difﬁcult decision making. These leaders are sure to engage and maintain audience attention in high-stakes meetings and discussions, and they do not avoid conﬂicts and differences of opinion.
4. Seize Opportunities
Innovative leaders are good at seizing opportunities. They are proactive and take initiative and ownership for success. These CEOs anticipate potential obstacles before taking action, but avoid over-analysis. They push for personal performance and are able to work independently for extended periods of time with minimal support. They are also able to change directions quickly to take advantage of new opportunities when they come up.
1. Maintain a Strategic Business Perspective
Innovative leaders do maintain a strategic business perspective. These leaders demonstrate a keen understanding of industry trends and their implications for the organization. They thoroughly understand the business, the marketplace, and the customer base and are adept at identifying strategic opportunities or threats for the business. They actively participate in community, industry and leadership organizations to understand the external environment, and have an ability to articulate convincing approaches to moving their business forward.
Most innovative leaders don’t ignore risks – they manage them. These leaders anticipate what can go wrong without getting boxed in. They’re curious, and they seize on clear opportunities, balancing exploration with being opportunistic. The leaders who are most likely to lead innovation are driving, high-impact individuals, who aren’t afraid to be assertive, independent, and above all, curious.