How Top Leaders Successfully Navigate Change (Part IV): Empowerment

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Individual innovators are often driven by achievement and have good lateral and conceptual thinking, but they also feel empowered to experiment.  

That’s what leaders do: enable the whole company to try new (even risky) things. Innovation leaders are different from innovators; rather than innovating themselves, they empower others to do so, and indeed are motivated to influence, not just invent.  

When confronted with regular business decisions: Do you stick with your declining cash cow business? Do you spend to do something new but risky? There is no single answer, but top change leaders typically bring three elements that help. 

First, you need a clear strategic vision to enable others to make aligned choices and decisions independently.  Then they understand the game and the goalposts. Steve Jobs focused Apple on just three key areas when he returned, e.g., the iMac, with a home-use focus. Then the innovation aligned. Otherwise, innovation can go in all different directions. 

Second, you must engage people with that vision and third, encourage manageable risk around it. A risk you can learn from and use regardless of outcome (i.e., it won’t destroy the company) is worth taking. Great change leaders let people experiment within reasonable limits for a clear purpose, keeping in mind that most experiments fail. If only the CEO thinks they can take risks, you’ve reduced innovation to one person. Give others a supportive hand. 

Learning and using new information - and making sense of it - are critical, especially if you are motivated.  The next step is for your followers to navigate change and innovate with you. 

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Marietta BryantComment