As an executive advisor, coach and university faculty member, I am highly committed to developing leaders across the spectrum of their careers starting in college. I had the great pleasure of writing the Innovative Leadership Workbook for College Students with Amy Barnes, MA, EDD focusing on helping young leaders develop. While the book is targeted at college students, I believe it is entirely appropriate for young people irrespective of educational path. This brief introduction is a companion to a Voice America Interview where Amy and I discuss nuances of developing young leaders. Since they will be running the world as we “age out” it is important for current leaders to consider how we ensure the next generations are prepared to meet the significant challenges we will all face and they will lead.
Young leaders and college student are provided with many opportunities to develop their own leadership skills and capacities through coursework, co-curricular involvement, and part or full-time work experiences. They are the future leaders of our companies, our nonprofit organizations, our government, and our education system. It is extremely important that we, as a society, invest in the development of our future leaders. We know that leadership plays a critical role in today’s ever changing world, and that innovation is a strategic necessity for tackling the tough problems we face today and those we will face in the near future.
Many students take a passive approach to leadership during college. It is as though they are waiting to become a leader…someday. The truth is that we need to be leaders now. Today. Not tomorrow or three years from now. They can begin developing leadership competencies and personal awareness now, as students—and, if they do, they will have a distinct advantage in the workplace when they graduate. Figuring out now who they are, what they value, and how to tap into their innovative self will enhance your experience as a leader later.
The Innovative Leadership Workbook for College Students explores a number of approaches to elaborate on both personal development as a leader and innovative abilities by providing exercises designed to create space for to grow and learn. Both becoming a better leader and optimizing innovation hinge on their ability to authentically examine their own inner makeup which, in turn, will allow them to make real change.
Let’s start by straightforwardly defining leadership:
Leadership is the ability to affect change for the betterment of others and the greater community by clarifying personal values, beliefs and intentions, aligning those beliefs with actions, and by positively influencing organizational culture and systems.
Within this context, leadership involves a two-fold process of influence: strategic influence to inspire vision and direction, and tactical influence to guide functional execution.
Leadership influences individual intentions and cultural norms by inspiring purpose and alignment. It equally influences an individual’s actions and organizational efficiencies through tactical decisions. Innovation, as an extension of leadership, refers to the novel ways in which we advance that influence across the four elements of personal values, beliefs and intentions, personal actions, organizational beliefs (culture) and organizational systems.
Innovating leadership means leaders influence by equally engaging their personal intention and action with the organization’s culture and systems.
Though we are, in a sense, defining innovative leadership very broadly, we are also making a distinct point. We are saying that the core aspects that comprise your experience—whether personal intention, action, cultural, or systematic—are inextricably interconnected. If a student affects one, he affects them all. So, if, for example, a student implements a strategy to realign a student organization’s value system over the next two years, he will also affect personal motivations (intentions), behavioral outcomes and organizational culture. To deny the mutual interplay of any one of the four dimensions misses the full picture. You can only innovate leadership by addressing reality in a comprehensive fashion.
To summarize, leadership innovation is the process of self-improvement and increased self-awareness within the context of organizations thus allowing successful leadership to raise the bar on performance without losing sight of the people and culture of the organization.
An innovative leader is defined as someone who consistently delivers results using:
- Strategic leadership that inspires individual intentions and goals and organizational vision and culture;
- Task leadership that influences an individual’s actions and the organization’s systems and processes; and,
- Holistic leadership that aligns all core dimensions: individual intention and action, along with organizational culture and systems.
Leadership innovation happens naturally, but can be accelerated through the use of a structured
process involving self-exploration, allowing you to authentically enhance your leadership beyond simply following procedures and task execution. If you are a young leader, parent, college student, supervisor of young leaders or mentor,
I hope you are able to put some of the ideas in this workbook into practice to develop our future leaders.
In addition to using the Innovative Leadership Workbook for College Students, what can you do about becoming more effective and develop others? To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills
About the author
Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.
In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.