Innovation and Leadership

Innovation and Leadership

Bringing Innovation Into Your Leadership Style

Matthew Storey, leadership innovator and head of British Executive Coach, successfully helps clients reach their full leadership potential in all aspects of their lives. The founder of many
successful businesses, he now shares some of the philosophy behind British Executive Coach.

Innovation & Leadership

From junior staff to business owner, leadership can be the make or break of a company. At every level, having the right direction and guidance in place is one of the most important ways of realizing success and achieving your business’ goals.

It often helps to think of your business as starting a journey; a good leader knows where they want to take their business, and has a plan for getting there. As Matthew Storey, head of British Executive Coach, explains:

“When you start a business, as a leader you need to know what your end goal is; in other words, you have a road map, and you need to have a plan for reaching your destination. If you get on the road without knowing where you need to be, you may never get there – at best, you’ll come across something by luck. On the other hand, if you know where your destination is, there are a number of successful roads you can take, a number of ways to achieve your aims, and more chance you’ll reach them. Even if you take the long road, a good leader will always be getting closer to where they want to be.”

But before we get into what makes a good leader, and what role innovation plays in the leadership process, let’s take a look at what ‘being a leader’ actually means.

What is a leader?

Leadership Skills







According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a leader is:

  • A guide.
  • A conductor.
  • Someone who has commanding authority or influence.
  • Something or someone that ranks first. [1]

Looking at the definitions above, it’s important to note how each characterization interplays with each other.

So…what does that mean?

A good leader guides their team with their expertize and knowledge. Guidance is often synonymous with words like counseling, advice and teaching – a gentler approach to helping your business and your team to achieve their goals.

We particularly like the metaphor of a conductor when it comes to leadership. Leadership in business can often be a bit like a musical orchestra. From triangle player to pianist, the conductor knows how each instrument works together to create a symphony. Equally, each musician looks to the conductor for direction and to shape the sound of the ensemble. And that’s exactly what a good leader needs to accomplish in an organization. To conduct effectively, it’s important for you, as a leader, to advise, counsel and guide each member of the team to achieve the best results.

It also goes without saying that a leader needs to have commanding authority and influence. Leaders are by definition decision makers, and without the right authority, it’s unlikely that those important decisions will get implemented. Authority can come in many guises, but much of your influence as a leader will come from your knowledge, your decision-making skills, the guidance you provide and the way you conduct your team.

Finally, Merriam-Webster describes a leader as someone or something that ranks first. In a business environment, it’s important that you not only lead your business effectively, but also are a thought leader in your industry. By staying up to date with the latest developments, the latest technological shifts and simply continuing to expand on your existing expertize, you can continue to grow and develop yourself to rank first in your chosen industry field – and lead your team to similar success.

While we’ve detailed above just a few aspects of what makes a good leader, it’s up to you to determine what your leadership style is. Your leadership style is your method of achieving the above characteristics, but we won’t go into too much detail about leadership varieties in this blog post. There are numerous styles that you can adopt, and if you’re interested in developing your leadership process by discovering your own strengths and solutions, get in touch with one of our executive coaches who can guide you through the process.

Innovation in leadership

One of the world’s most renowned and celebrated leaders said this:

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. [1]

And without a doubt, innovation plays a key role in the success of any organization. Steve Jobs knew that change, metamorphoses and revolutions are what keep a business alive and thriving. As a leader, it is important that you embody these attributes and push your team in the direction of innovation and effective change.

But it’s not always easy to be innovative.

Whatever industry you are in, there are always barriers to change. These could include:

  • You’re in a traditional industry that is slow moving.
  • You’re in an industry or business that doesn’t have the capacity to be reactive to changes in the market or business field.
  • You have internal difficulties or a lack of buy-in from key stakeholders.
  • You don’t have the right resources or the right team to drive innovation.
  • You don’t have the right personal skills (yet!).

As well as barriers to change, you may also find it a challenge to put innovation into practice. You might know what you need to do, but becoming a highly innovative leader means making real, tangible change that can be felt across the business.

What makes an innovative leader?

It goes without saying that every person is different. It also goes without saying that every organization or business is different too. That’s why at British Executive Coach, we don’t just ‘advise’; we tailor our coaching to suit every individual and situation, helping our clients discover their own solutions based on their unique strengths. We know that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach and our business and life coaching reflects that.

Nevertheless, there are some universal behaviors that help you stand out as a leader and excel in your field.

Research by Harvard Business Review[2] found that there were ten behavioral traits that were commonly found in innovative leaders. While the study conducted by HBR only surveyed one organization, they noted that their results were consistent with their analysis of a variety of different industries across the globe. And from our point of view, these are certainly behaviors that can drive you to become a leader that both innovates and revolutionizes.

Leadership Solutions







  • Strategic Vision

The HBR survey noted that the most effective leaders displayed an excellent aptitude for creating a clear and executable long-term vision for the business or organization.

As a leader, it’s important to be able to not only develop the strategic goals for the company, but also communicate those goals clearly and concisely – so that the supporting team can take your vision and turn it into real results.

  • Customer Focus

Whatever the industry you are in, it’s likely that you are going to have some kind of customer. It may be that your business model is business to consumer (B2C) or business to business (B2B). You may be a service-based business or even business to government (B2G). Whatever your customer profiles, a great leader has a strong customer focus that drives the business to be focused on the core source of revenue – its customers.

  • Trust

It goes without saying that a good leader is trusted implicitly by his or her team – and that trust should be reciprocal too. As supported by the HBR study, no innovator can make real change without risk. And as with any risk, decisions and changes don’t always go to plan. When things go wrong, a good leader must be trusted to support the team and not just look after their own interests.

  • Doing What’s Right

According to the HBR research, doing what was right for the business or a particular project was valued above pleasing the boss or another high-level executive.

  • Upward Communication

An upward flow of communication is the passing of ideas and information from the lower levels in the organization to the upper level decision makers. For upward communication to thrive, and for innovative ideas to flourish at all levels of a business, a culture that promotes and endorses upward communication is important. Only leaders can create this sort of culture, and good leaders will strive to create a culture that is open, optimistic and receptive.

  • Persuasiveness

A productive leader is rarely autocratic. Instead, having strong persuasive skills means that you can present your ideas to your team with enthusiasm, rather than forcing them to accept your ideas unwillingly.

  • Stretch Goals

Stretch goals are those objectives that you and your business want to achieve, but at the moment seem almost impossible. Setting stretch goals can help your team to challenge the status quo, question ways of working and look to create new processes that help you to reach goals that might not seem achievable right now.

An innovative leader is great at setting stretch goals – because these are the goals that will help you realize the impossible.

  • Speed

As we mentioned above, a slow moving industry or business can be extremely detrimental to leaders wanting to innovate. Whether it is convoluted process or other barriers to change, a slow pace can cause some serious difficulties for good leaders. According to the HBR review, leaders who were able to move at swift speeds were more valued by their teams.

  • Candid Communication

Of course, becoming an innovative leader is not just about motivating your business and team to change and improve. It’s about creating a culture that’s based on progress and development. To do so, it’s important to not only encourage your team but also criticize where necessary. Constructive feedback will help your team to know that you will always be honest and straight with them.

  • Inspire and Motivate Through Action

Many of the world’s most celebrated leaders are renowned for the inspiration they encourage. To motivate the business and the team, it is important to inspire by providing a clear sense of purpose and meaning in the work you and the team do.

How to get there

While these are great indicators of what encompasses an innovative leader, they’re just a starting point on your journey to real pioneering leadership. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula that can instantly turn your leadership style into true innovation.

Leadership Learning Skills







However, both small and large changes can contribute to a complete overhaul of the processes that make up your leadership – whatever the industry you’re in. At British Executive Coach, we can help you through that period of change. Our services are designed to act as sounding boards, offering support for the unique needs of every individual and business. Rather than give ‘one size fits all’ advice, we guide you through your own decision-making process, helping you find the unique solution that only you are capable of.

We work to help you realize success at whatever stage of your career you are in. If you’re looking to progress and develop your career further, we can help you become a dynamic and innovative leader that shines over the competition. If you are already a business owner or entrepreneur, but don’t know how to decide which direction to take your business in, we can act as impartial coaches that will help you discover your own goals. And finally, even if you’re just starting out on your journey, we can help you plan your career path and give you the tools you need to achieve your ambitions. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you accomplish your dreams.

By |August 14th, 2015|Leadership|0 Comments

About the Author:

Matthew Storey is an innovative Business Executive & Career Coach based in New York & London

Leave A Comment