Opening Roads to Innovation

Opening Roads to Innovation Dr. Sam Adeyemi offers insight to business executives and C-suite professionals on cultivating innovation within any organization. Today’s guest post is b y Dr. Sam Adeyemi, author of “Dear Leader: Your Flagship Guide to Successful Leadership.” 5 Leadership Tips to Unlock Your Team’s Potential Innovating is a lot like driving down a road. If the weather is clear, the road is unobstructed, and the light is green, then everything will ceaselessly flow towards its destination. However, when the traffic stops, it often comes to a grinding halt. The wrong kind of leadership stifles innovation at the source, while the right kind of leadership keeps the road ready for new drivers at every turn. What defines the difference? Discover the five things successful leaders do to encourage nonstop innovation. 1. Alleviate fear The young British writer Eric Blair was worried his family would be embarrassed by his time living in poverty. So, he published his very first book as the now-famous George Orwell. Charlotte Brontë published most of her early works as Currer Bell, and Victorian novelist George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans. Why the deceit? Because women writers of the 19th century feared being disregarded based solely on their biological sex, and writers throughout history have feared both misunderstanding and reprisal. Fear is a roadblock to honest communication and innovative thinking. It’s that simple. In fact, 85% of executives believe fear and apprehension are what prevents progress within their organization. New ideas can come from anyone — from frontline workers to C-suite executives. But none of this matters unless leaders cultivate an open-minded environment that welcomes every idea, challenges conventional thinking, and removes fear from the equation. 2. Show support From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois were two of the most prominent civil rights leaders in America. Examined up close, they agreed on almost nothing. Mr. Washington believed discrimination was an inescapable reality, and he promoted the ideas of self-help and skilled labor as a means of elevating the black community. Conversely, Mr. Du Bois believed in the power of the intellectual elite, and his prescription for change involved political action and a liberal arts education. Still, there was one thing that the two men agreed on that superseded everything else: successful leaders show their support. Even the most self-assured professionals need someone to believe in their future success. As a leader, when you outwardly encourage team members to pursue their own ideas, you are not only exhibiting faith in the individual’s potential, but you are also letting others know that innovation is supported at your organization. As Mr. Washington and Mr. Du Bois proved just over 100 years ago, there are a number of ways for leaders to show that support. All in all, the method matters much less than the authenticity and consistency of the sentiment itself. 3. Release control There are nearly 200 types of swords throughout the world. So, needless to say, there are many different ways to hold the hilt of one’s blade. But there is one universal piece of advice that applies to almost every weapon-wielding technique: “Only apply pressure when and where it’s necessary.” For example, if you’re holding a katana, you need only squeeze firmly with your pinky and index fingers. This freedom of movement is what makes the elegant cuts of the katana possible, while an overly firm grip reduces mobility and creates a much less effective hacking motion. As a leader, your management should apply the least amount of pressure possible, relinquishing control to your team at every opportunity. When you excessively supervise or micromanage any collective effort, the results are uninspiring. People want to think for themselves, be empowered to make both small and large decisions, and work in a way that best suits their goals and ambitions. Minimal management and a supportive working culture can give your team the freedom it needs to strike with passion and precision. 4. Welcome failure The Virtual Boy was a bizarre by-product of Nintendo’s meteoric rise in American pop culture from 1986 to the late 1990s. This clunky headset promised a first-class ticket to the “third dimension” of video games. Ultimately, however, it delivered a single-color 3D experience that was both awkward to play and caused motion sickness in the process. Following the success of the Super Nintendo, the Virtual Boy was an unmitigated failure and seemingly a giant step backward for the company. Yet, its cursed development produced the priceless tacit knowledge that would result in one of the company’s most iconic systems: 1997’s Nintendo 64. Successful leaders understand that failure is part of every process. What’s more, with the right mindset, failure is often a precursor to a larger success or organizational evolution. In a recent study that examined everything from grant funding applications to terrorist activity, researchers discovered two underlying trends: (1) failure happens to everyone, and (2) the only difference between those who eventually succeed and those who don’t is whether or not they endure the inevitable “stagnation period.” In this way, supporting failure is actually an integral part of supporting the creative process of your entire team. 5. Reward fairly From 1206 to 1294, the Mongol army captured nearly all of Eurasia and created the world’s largest contiguous empire in history. What gave their military might the upper hand in almost every situation? Well, a number of things. However, perhaps most importantly, the Mongol army was one of the first examples of a completely merit-based military organization. Many Khans were elected to their position, and no one ascended the ranks of the military without succeeding in battle and building their own resumé. Simply put, rewards were given fairly, and the results were undeniable. If something is working or someone is generating great ideas, it is critical for leaders to acknowledge that success. Nearly 70% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were more fairly recognized. Of course, defining this fairness is absolutely essential. While justly given rewards can be a positive morale booster, unfair recognition can turn incentives into something demoralizing that only favors the outspoken. Atlanta-based Dr. Sam Adeyemi (SAY: Ah Day yeh me) is CEO of Sam Adeyemi, GLC, Inc. and founder and executive director of Daystar Leadership Academy (DLA). More than 45,000 alumni have graduated from DLA programs, and more than 3 million CEOs and high performing individuals follow him on top social media sites. Dr. Sam’s new book is “Dear Leader: Your Flagship Guide to Successful Leadership.” He holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Virginia’s Regent University, and is a member of the International Leadership Association. He and his wife, Nike (say Nee keh) have three children. Learn more at Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thought LEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!