Leadership Style and Innovation in Workplace

Executive Summary

The paper investigates leadership style and innovation in the workplace. The research finds out that there are a number of factors that are crucial for innovative leadership; however, key features are found to be the encouragement from the leaders for organizational innovation; their planning for long-term vision and their passion to bring about change innovatively. Risk factor plays a key role in innovative practices and failure-related consequences must be kept in vision by innovative leaders.

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Problem Statement

In today’s modern business environment, innovation and creativity are considered as valued assets for organizational growth and competitive advantage. In their reviews and investigation on workplace practices, a number of authors and researchers have proposed connections between innovation and leadership style. More recently, the investigation has led a new area “organizational climate and innovation” to emerge in the leadership literature; researchers have now proposed different models of leadership and innovation and that both effect each other in due course (Adela, p. 1, 2006). However, there is more work which is on the abstract side then empirical. This is where the problem of understanding the issue of leadership style lies and with it organizations find ambiguity as how to incorporate it innovative practices with leadership style (Leading Innovation, p. 1, 2007). This paper then looks at this issue from a reviewer’s perspective to investigate the effectiveness of this area in which leadership can lead to better innovative practices for success of business in the modern times.

Aim(s) and Objectives(s)

The aims and objectives of the present research investigation is to look into the matter of leadership style and how it relates to the innovative practices of business organizations. The study aims to point out the key issues which contribute to the innovative practices of an organization through a compatible leadership style. As such, the paper would bring into account the salient features of that leadership and would thus provide a solid framework in empirically tested evidence is utilized to support the argument. Similarly the paper aims to make recommendations at the end to better equip organizations with leadership style to promote innovation in the workplace.

Research Methodology

The present research paper investigates the link between leadership style and innovation in workplace from secondary sources. It undertakes an in-depth analysis of available research and incorporates important insights to achieve the objective of bearing understanding about the issue. Hence, literature review and subsequent sections form part of data for this research from secondary sources such research journals, magazine articles, and websites.

Approach to Literature Review

The study approaches the literature review from keyword article search and critically reviews major works that focus to inform the reader about important features of leadership and its links to innovation at workplace.

Literature Review

With the advent of globalization, workplace practices have changed so are leadership styles. There is now more concerns regarding global pressures, ability of organizations to the fast changing business demands for a healthy competition worldwide. However, there is more that needs to be done in this area. It is important to note that in the present day business contexts researchers recognize leadership as a major channel to organizational success. Vigoda-Gadot (2007), states that leadership is a principal factor to influence a company’s performance including all aspects from employees to managers. Although there are quite a few theories that have addressed the area of leadership style (e.g. target oriented leadership, democratic leadership, etc.), in the recent times, research has yielded insights which suggest that leadership which can transform employees’ performance is more influential because it is innovative in the way employees are assigned jobs to carry on. Thus, the prime focus of today’s research is how to “influence people to perform tasks over a period of time using motivational methods rather than power or authority”; this requires integration of creative and innovative practices into the fabric of organizational leadership practices. It is now known that employees perform much better when they identify themselves with their leader. This leads to highly innovative work potential by employees. Crawford (2005) comes up with the observation that transformational leadership is to have employees help each other to rise to higher levels of motivation and morality. Here, transformational leadership focuses on follower-centered approach to address their needs; however, Crawford notes that up to today, there is only limited research that takes into focus the link between transformational leadership and innovation. One key point that the extant research brings forth is that innovation is a feature of leaders used to “create and manage information and knowledge”. This is very area on which present day research is seriously focused. The writer also points out the available research suggests personal innovation is highly attributive as it was found to have 30.8% variance with transformational management. Major attributes that the author links with innovative leadership are that this style is ethical and authentic when it seeks to influence workplace practices. Thus, it is important to note that today business environment is such which requires the “high touch” (innovative leadership) to handle the “high tech” of today’s workplace. A review “Leadership Development” (2006) reveals that the roots of innovative leadership style are well established in management literature although the work was progressing in areas like how to improve employees’ performance by showing more care to their concerns. That time innovation was seen as an essential part of organizational success but it was regarded more as one of the overall organizational objectives. Therefore, it was not considered a vital part of leadership but was taken as an inside function of the company. However, studies done on relationship between care and leadership and issues like downsizing were slowly leading toward a follower-centered approach. Today, transformational leadership, this review also endorses, is seen as the solution to many problems and it is attached to innovation and vision.

When it comes to transformational leadership, Downey at el. (2006) mention that this style bears very dramatic results in organizational potential. This is acquired when employees are taken to “higher levels of personal and professional development”; and when this is the case, the author mentions four major attributes that the workforce displays. These are: (i) employees show positive traits like self-sacrifice, higher motivation, etc.; (ii) they find inspiration in their leaders which leads them to “pro-social collective action”; (iii) they become intellectually stimulated and so innovation is the outcome; (iv) the same leadership patterns develop and move downward resulting in individual mentoring and potential. The authors conducted a study and its findings also attest that self-innovation, self-control, etc. were basic requirement of innovative leadership. Another research study on management practices reveals similar findings. According to Lidewey (2004) it is critical for an organization to have an environment that promotes learning and innovation by the workforce. However, the author further points out that whatever research insight is available “does not provide techniques that are developed to design” framework that promotes innovation and learning. This is evident with bulk of research studies coming out from sociology and other disciplines, but not addressing these issues practically. Yet available evidence suggests that there are some starting points which can ensure these two highly influential components of organizational operation. The first one is discussed under the heading of ‘symbiotic leadership’, and it is actually transformational leadership when reviewed thoroughly. The second is ‘project teams’ which means team learning while they assigned on some specific projects; next on the list is ‘challenging work environment’ which entails factors that kindle knowledge. Ahead is ‘formal linking mechanisms’ which the author explains as collaborative work efforts for work and other factors such as problem solving. ‘Culture/climate’ and ‘structure’ are the last two factors that, according to author, play a crucial role in promoting innovative and learning climate in an organization. All these, however, are said to take as their base the symbiotic leadership. Lock (2003) states that it is important to promote these factors by changing the old patterns and work practices in an organization; the other point which the author notes here is that it is important for management to hear the concerns of the employees from economic issues to their personal lives: this holds to be a crucial part of innovative leadership.

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Trudy (2006) sheds critical light on the phenomena of creativity and innovation. According to the author, a major problem lies with the concepts of creativity and innovation in that up to today it has been found to be really cumbersome to arrive at a common ground for definition of these two. The same can be said for theorists who do not agree on one definition of these two important aspect of workplace. Thus, the result is there is considerable overlap between definitions. This is directly related to the workplace practices and leadership style and an in-depth understanding of this aspect is missing just because of this. However, the studies they discuss in their article take them to three models; first of these suggests that creativity and innovation are primarily based on personality factor: Leadership style. The second model is quite different from the first one as it gives higher importance to curiosity and persistence rather than personality. However, the third model that they investigated had self-leadership as the most important aspect of organization success and innovative practices. Under this very model workgroup support is also very crucial for developing innovative and creative practices. Workgroup support, however, is founded on the upper hand leadership; once these channels are constructed, then on the next stages supervision becomes a common norm of an organization which leads to success. And Darling (1995) gives a very important point that leadership must encompass how employees can be put to better understanding of organizational goals. One most important feature is that they should be respected which is important to boost up their confidence.

In recent research studies, the focus of the management researcher has moved into deeper issues and now various types of leadership are being explored with the concepts of creativity and innovation. In this regard, Borgelt (2007) states that it is now important to link innovative practices with such domains as risk-management; for this statement the author moves on to prove his point by the point that it is important to take risks to be innovative without which creativity and innovation are outside the scope of an organization. However, risk management is also important. Yet if planned rigorously, these two factors can go hand in hand with each other and can prove to be significant in the success of an organization. Brazier (2005) discusses a different perspective with regard to leadership style and innovation and creativity. According to the author, it is very important for organizations to keep a focus on how to bring into workplace practices more and more flexibility. The author takes this approach as being one of the most care requiring areas; when an organization is flexible in its professional norms (e.g. encouraging employees to share through interaction). The organizations that observe this paradigm and incorporate it into workplace practices, it is more likely that such a firm would have a very highly innovative outcome out of these efforts. However, there is an important link which needs to be taken into account: organizational variables. Research on these areas is expected to yield useful insights about the leadership style and innovation at the workplace. Moreover, there are certain areas that have not been adequately explored in today’s research (e.g. health care) and this is something that can become highly crucial. There is stark need that research employ existing theories from other disciplines also so that better understanding of leadership style and innovation can be obtained.

The Leadership Style Survey Research

Cass Business School in collaboration with Tomorrow’s Company undertook a research that was majorly focused on gaining insights into testing their assumption that “innovation is a pre-requisite for any successful organization”. First the researcher conducted an initial research in which senior insurance business leaders and other heads were interviewed in UK. A special cognitive map was design for the research methodology so that important factors can be mapped out. By this way the researchers were able to pinpoint complex issues at hand. According to the findings in the first phase of this research, it was revealed that key factor for innovative leadership style was that these leaders “managed” innovative practices in their companies (Butt, at el. p 1, 2004). The planning for this “management” was done in much the same way as for a town or city. However, the leaders used also traditional methods to envision their practices into innovative strategies. The major cognitive map findings regarding innovative leadership in workplace are as follows:

  • The leaders “perceived the barriers to innovation as being outside the control of management e.g. industry regulation, conservative staff” (p. 2);
  • They set goals in a formal way and planned how they can initiate innovation and focused on know how these initiatives would impact on results;
  • They make use of formal structures and methods to encourage and also maintain innovation in their firms, for instance, rewards for innovative idea, etc.

The research also found out that besides the above three directives, the innovative leaders extended an attitude that told the workplace that they were not very much directive or controlling as far as innovation is concerned. Instead, these people look out to envision the long-term goals of the organization to inculcate a sense of these goals in their workforce to encourage them to head for these long-term goals in their own innovative and driving styles. Moreover, these leaders looked for innovation that was a result of coordinated efforts of the workforce and spanned across the organization with a prime focus to address the future demands of the company. The formation of a streamlined, harmonized, and well coordinated structure is their aim so that certain competencies and climate for innovation can be developed “which would enable their people to experiment and innovate so as to achieve the vision”. (p. 03). Hence the research found that these leaders worked out their strategies for innovation more like architects than planners (Butt, at el. pp. 1-7, 2004).

Conclusion and Recommendations

The present paper investigates what leadership style fits today as to be the gateway to more innovation and creative practices in today’s business world where globalization has posed immense pressure on business organization. Hence, the paper reviews extensive literature and gets to the point that although there is much talk about the link between leadership style and innovative business practices, it is still a matter of more research that is needed to have a deeper understanding of the issue. Nonetheless, innovative leaders are the ones who plan, follow their plans in a ways that encourages a culture of innovation in their organization and that a number of outside factors such as culture, passion of the leader to bring change, workforce training, and the most important (to the present writer’s discretion at least) readiness to change play important role for innovation. More research is needed so that leadership and innovation can be better understood.

According to Robinson (2008), there is more about leadership and its understanding as transformational management or innovative organizational practices: there is need to explore other ground of interests. For instance, the author proposes a leadership style which he calls as the “leadership as distributed influence”. By proposing leadership of this kind the author is interested more in how leadership styles can come to play a role and those how certain reactions can be target through this theory of the author. One important observation that the author makes this type of leadership leads to dynamic insights into a number of organizational matters. This is also very important to me that different leadership styles should be now adapted to suit the needs of a specific context. Today, the opportunities and challenges always pose new areas of investigation which leads this analysis; in addition to this, pressures of outside sources such as globalization has also legitimate part t play. Thus the most important thing is that they that dynamic leadership style is needed that knows how to deal with modern risks and challenges.

References

Adela, J. M. (2006). The relationship between leadership, organizational climate and workplace innovation. Swinburne Research Bank, p. 01. Web.

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Borgelt, K. (2007). “The leadership/management conundrum: innovation or risk management?”. Leadership & Organization Development Journal 28(2), pp. 122-136. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0143-7739.

Brazier, D. K. (2005). “Influence of contextual factors on health-care leadership”. Leadership & Organization Development Journal 26(2), pp. 128-140. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0143-7739.

Crawford, C. B. (2005). “Effects of transformational leadership and organizational position on knowledge management”. Journal of Knowledge Management 9(6), pp. 6-16. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 1367-3270.

Darling, J. (1995). “Downsizing the multinational firm”. Leadership & Organization Development Journal 16(5), pp. 22-28. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0143-7739.

Downey, L. A., Papageorgiou, V., & Stough, C. (2006). “Examining the relationship between leadership, emotional intelligence and intuition in senior female managers”. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal 27(4), pp. 250-264. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0143-7739.

“Leadership Development” (2006). “Carry on caring: how leadership development boosts NHS performance”. Development and Learning in Organizations, 20(4), pp. 28-30. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 1477-7282.

“Leading Innovation” (2007). Innovate on the run: The competing demands of modern leadership. Blessingwhite, p. 01. Web.

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Lidewey, E. C. (2004). “Designing the workplace for learning and innovation: Organizational factors affecting learning and innovation”. Development and Learning in Organizations 18(5), pp. 10-13. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 1477-7282.

Lock, G. E. (2003). “Living, valuing and sharing – a case study of retaining IT professional in the British Columbia public service”. Career Development International 8(3), pp. 152-158. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 1362-0436.

Robinson, M. J. (2008). “Forging the links between distribute leadership and education outcomes” Journal of Eduational Administration 46(2), pp. 241-256. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0143-7739.

Trudy, C. D. (2006). “Maximizing organization leadership capacity for the future”. Journal of Managerial Psychology 21(4), pp. 319-337. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0268-3946.

Vigoda-Gadot, E. (2007). “Leadership style, organizational politics, and employees’ performance”. Personnel Review 36(5), pp. 661-683. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0048-3486.

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