The Best of Killer Innovations: The Art of Innovation Leadership

Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney

27-06-2023 • 20 mins

On this week’s Killer Innovation Series, we analyze qualities that promote strong leadership and will help any organization become a trailblazer in the innovation game.

What are the unique skill sets needed for innovation leadership?  We all have a list of what good leadership skills are but what are the unique ones you need to be a true innovation leader?  Today on Killer Innovations, I will discuss what I have found to be the skills needed for successful innovation leadership.

Innovation Leadership Skills

These leadership skills apply to all organizations, whether you are a small organization or a large organization.

1. Integrity

1.       You need to trust the people you are working with.

2.       You need to know they are looking out for what is in the best interests of the team and organization.

2. Vision and Strategy.

1.       Team members are looking to the leaders to communicate what the vision and strategy are.

2.       You need to look long-range beyond where the team is and roll that back in so they can see what your vision is.

3.       You need to be able to tell the story, make the pitch, and share your dream with others.

4.       Communication is critical to successful innovation leadership,

5.       If you are going to be a leader, you need to be able to interact and build relationships and truly have an interest in other people’s lives.

6.       Know what is going on in your team members’ lives so you can help them eliminate distractions and get their heads in the game.

7.       You have got to persuade people to leave what they are doing now and join your team.

8.       You must be able to convince them that what are doing is something worth their time.

3. Adaptability and Flexibility.

1.       As a leader you cannot be rigid, you must be adaptable and flexible with your team and organization.

2.       Can you operate as a leader of a team?

3.       You need diversity in your team to be successful.

4. Coach and develop.

1.       Find young and upcoming people and coach and develop them.

5. Decision-Making.

1.       You must be comfortable making the final decision.

2.       Realize that sometimes the decision you make is going to fail.

6. Planning and organizing.

1.       If you are not good at planning and organizing, then hire people to do it for your team.

These are the basic skills you need to be a successful innovation leader.  So, what skills do you need to do differently to truly be an innovation leader?

1. Innovation leadership involves taking risks.

1.       You must be comfortable that some of the decisions you make are going to fail.

2.       Some of your decisions are going to be flipped.

2. You need to keep looking for new opportunities and threats.

1.       Look for threats to your organization, industry, or geography.

3. Innovation is about change.

1.       Stability is the death of innovation.

2.       Foster a culture where change is expected.

4. Do not rest on the traditional management techniques.

1.       Every situation is different.

2.       You need to invent the way you manage and do leadership.

5. Be an optimist.

1.       Innovation is about being an optimist.

2.       You need to convince and convey an optimistic view of the future.

6. Innovators cut through the crap.

1.       Innovation leaders need to cut through the crap and get to the core.

2.       You need to step in and stop the corporate game-playing.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is or you can go to and drop me a note there.

Thinking Beyond the Obvious

The challenges on the creativity innovation side do not change based on scale.  It is the same whether you have a five-person team or a fifty-person team.  The challenge is operating and innovating at the same level.  A lot of companies get in a rut because they are doing what they have always done.  So, how do you push yourself and people to go beyond the obvious and do the next thing?

1. Break the rules.

1.       Corporate antibodies will come after new ideas; you need to recognize that these antibodies exist.

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