How To Lead Extraordinary Teams

In a world of accelerating technological change that is disrupting whole industries, organizations, and the people that serve, requires that we have extraordinary leadership at the helm. Here are some characteristics that are essential for leading an extraordinary team in our digitally-connected and social world.


Respect helps create a culture of commitment and collaboration. Leaders who demonstrate respect show an unconditional high regard for others, acknowledging their values and people, regardless of their behaviors. Respect comes through in all situations, even during times of dispute or disapproval. Leaders must cultivate and build the following qualities of respect: Empathy, Humility, and Emotional Intelligence.


Over ten year’s of executive studies on innovation indicates that a large gap exists between what CEOs say they want and what their business delivers. Over 80 percent of leaders surveyed say innovation is vital for their organization’s success, but less than 30 percent are content with their current level of innovation. This is what we are calling the “innovation gap.”

So why, despite all the rhetoric and all the resources at their command, have the business leaders of many of the largest organizations in the world not been able to close this innovation gap? The concise answer is that almost everything that has made businesses successful in the past are now roadblocks to creating innovative organizations.


Business leaders cannot close the innovation gap by leveraging the same type of reasoning that created this problem. They have been successful using analytical and critical cognitive thinking. This type of thinking works well for solving complicated issues. Today’s complex challenges require a different approach — creative thinking.

Defining innovation and innovative organizations

The challenge with any meaningful discussion on innovation is that the word “innovation” is applied in many different ways. The most useful and reasonable definition is “applied creativity that achieves business value.” Rather than considering innovation as a value or an outcome or the exclusive domain of Research & Development, it is most effective to think of it as the best process to solve complex problems or take advantage of complex opportunities. This is “Innovation” in business organizations.

This type of “Creativity is:

  • It is New
  • It is Useful
  • It is Feasible

How innovation happens is also often misunderstood. There is nothing random about it. Innovation only happens when individuals and small teams engage in innovative thinking. In business organizations that innovate consistently and sustainably, the leaders, cultures, and organizational practices systematically assist individuals and teams to deliver value by creating and implementing new and valuable ideas.

Why the Innovation Gap?

There are two factors that have created this innovation gap. The first is education or knowledge. Many established organizations are not innovative because their leaders do not know how to make innovation a systematic process. The second is that some of the management systems created in the industrial age that enabled business success, are now roadblocks to becoming more innovative in the knowledge and sharing economy.

The Knowledge Lever

Most senior business leaders of established for-profit entities have never learned how to lead and manage a formal innovation process embedded in their organization. How they became successful in the first place is an entirely different than the mindset of innovation required going forward. The game has changed. It is understandable the challenge facing business leaders in making the shift.

As we moved from the industrial economy to the knowledge economy over the past 30 years, the nature of strategic issues changed from intricate to complex. Intricate issues can be solved with reasoning and applied from past experience. It’s simply a matter of simplifying, organizing and applying solutions that have worked in a similar situation. On the other hand, complex issues are more convoluted, unpredictable, and fairly unique challenges or opportunities. Leaders need to apply innovative and creative thinking to gain insight into the complexities and to identify innovative solutions. While yesterday’s solution or best practices may be of assistance, they can never accurately and consistently solve a complex problem.

Implementing a formal process of innovation in current business is a true example of a complex problem. Leaders are tempted to apply directly to their organization some of the best practices from exceptionally innovative organizations such as Apple, Google, or Amazon without fully considering the difference in their history or cultural context. Some try to leverage common innovation objectives and a common operating model across their entire business, in functions such as different as R&D, sales, accounting or operations. With each having fairly different cultural mindsets.

Relationship Maturity Model (RMM) Standard of Trust Group®

They ask managers and employees to create more ideas without helping them implement and apply the ideas. They implement training programs without adapting organizational practices such as HR or Finance. They ignore behaviors and mindsets that are not aligned with a culture of innovation. And most concerning, many business leaders do not “walk the talk” with changes in the way the senior executive leadership team behaves and solves problems.

Good Intent

In this era of standard of trust leadership and relationship capitalism, no corporation can ignore the fact that the customer reigns supreme. Business leaders have talked for decades about “the customer is king” but have not always focused on this tenet in execution. Well, in this hyperconnected and transparent social world of almost unlimited options and instant gratification, the customer is definitely KING, QUEEN, and SUPREME RULER.

Many companies, therefore, find it advantageous to make promises for delivering a strong customer experience and support. Some companies may be moving over to ‘customer first’ policy for mere public relations, but many, indeed, have been moved to do so out of an authentic belief that customer delight has to be handled out of a strategic imperative. As a result, they have invested in key resources — people, knowledge, skills, processes and the right organizational structure — to fulfill their commitments.


Innovative Leaders is fully committed to supporting their employees to achieve innovation action, complete a task, or fulfill a commitment in a specific way. Effective leaders influence method, encourage change in employee’s attitudes and values, bolster followers’ principles, and nurture the adoption of the leaders’ vision by leveraging strategies of innovation empowerment.

It is understood that the encouraging aspect of leaders can elevate organizational innovative cultures. Innovative leadership requires ethics in order to be role models in order for the change of behavior required; to both implement a systemic innovation process and to execute on it. If leaders are guided by a principle of “support” to their teams, they can ensure that ensure that change will occur and higher levels of trust will be built which allows for great risk-taking that results in greater innovation.

Build Trust by Earning Relationship Capital (RC)

Motivating followers to put the needs or interests of the group ahead of their own is another quality of innovative leaders. Motivating involves engaging and influencing others in an intellectual and emotional or Relationship Capital (RC) commitment.Leaders who have integrity, competence, good intent, and are proactive with their relationships earn influence and build relationship capital trust. They are people-oriented leaders who are aware of how their decisions impact others, and use their influence to serve the greater good instead of self-serving interests.

A Standard of Trust Leader is a role model that “leads by example” and elevates an organizational culture from me and you to “we” while delivering outstanding performance. With the accelerating technological change that is occurring in business organizations, How we connect, collaborate, engender trust, deepen loyalty, keep promises, and earn relationship capital is the source of competitive advantage .

It starts with the R.I.G.H.T. Leader.

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Originally Published on April 1st, 2015 on Linkedin Pulse

Source: http://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/how-leaders-can-close-the-innovation-gap/

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