Intersection of Leadership and Innovation; from my 2007 dissertation


Monograph: Innovation Leadership

Chapter 1: Introduction

Innovation Leadership is the intersection of the best theory and practice ineach of the respective disciplines (that is, innovation and leadership) that,appropriately applied, will lead to the enhancement of the innovative climate across an organization. In 1994, Peter Drucker observed:

“Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs asharp transformation… Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself – its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through just such a transformation. (p. 1) “Nothing ‘post’ is permanent or even long-lived. Ours is a transition period. What the future society will look like, let alone whether it will indeed be the ‘knowledge society’ some of us dare hope for, depends on how the developed countries respond to the challenges of this transition period, the post-capitalist period – their intellectual leaders, their business leaders, their political leaders, but above all each of us in our own work and life. Yet surely this is a time to make the future – precisely because everything is in flux. This is a time for action. (p. 16) (Drucker, 1994)

But, what action can be taken? What are the organizational constructs within which “each of us” can “respond to the challenges of this transition period?” What are the enabling factors that facilitate this change? As if in response to Drucker’s question, Klaus Schwab and Pamela Hartigan recently wrote: “If there is one thing about which public and corporate leaders around the world today can agree, it is the ever-growing importanceof innovation. The search for innovative solutions to the world’s myriad local, national and global challenges has become a clarion call rallying people across multiple borders defined by nation, industry, and academic discipline” (Schwab & Hartigan, 2006).

Innovation is often introduced as an action in response to change. Innovation in processes and products will, purportedly, enable organizations to cope with increasingly diverse and increasingly individualized markets. Innovation is a knowledge-based exercise, and fits snugly within the notion of the Western progress towards a desired “knowledge society.” Do we need, therefore, to become more innovative, more responsive to changes across our entire ecosystem? Many believe so (Christensen, 2003; Cloke & Goldsmith, 2003; DeMarco, Lesser, & Smith, 2006; Denning & Dunham,2006; Drucker, 1985; Gladwell, 2002; Rogers, 2003; Sharma, 2006; vonHippel, 2006). And, by extension, does “each of us” need to become innovative within the frameworks of our own roles and responsibilities, as Drucker suggests?

Leadership, I propose, envisions the future and illuminates its path. What role does leadership play in our ability to become, “each of us,” more innovative? Does the traditional model of “command and control” accommodate the flexibility that innovation – especially in turbulent times –requires? Or, does a more dynamic model of “pervasive leadership” (Weisbord, 2004; Wheatley, 1999) lend itself more readily to success in thesetransitional times?

Innovation and Leadership are widely discussed throughout the business world. They have many definitions in and of themselves, already. What is the motivation, then, to fuse these terms together? What is the value in defining yet another aspect of these two concepts, by combining them? This monograph purports to answer these questions by proffering operating definitions of innovation and leadership, and generating value by leveraging both to understand the nature of innovative climate and how leadership principles affect it in a positive way.

Monograph: Innovation Leadership

© Lawrence Hiner, PsyD; 22 September 2007

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