Four Rules for Innovative Leadership

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Four Rules for Innovative LeadershipEven iconic companies can disappear from the landscape if they aren't constantly staying ahead of the customer. Remember when Blockbuster franchises dotted strip malls around the country? Yesterday's leader can become tomorrow's laggard without innovation and reinvention.

Why can't some companies reinvent themselves? Management consultant and bestselling business author Jason Jennings finds that the problem often boils down to four issues -- attachment, ego, control and complacency. Lead your market by ditching those innovation killers and following these rules:

Forget yesterday's breadwinner. Every product has a life span--don't hang onto your Big Idea until it's on life support, Jennings says in his new book, The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical, Continuous Change (Portfolio/Penguin, 2012). Don't get attached to a product or way of doing business, he says. Form an advisory committee with several trusted customers who will give you feedback on what your business is doing well and what needs to be improved. Then, act on their suggestions. Visit and read about competitors and successful businesses in other sectors to see how they're growing and changing and get ideas that you can apply to your own products and services. 

Check your ego at the door. Are you always the smartest person in the room? Then get the hell out of there, Jennings advises. When an employee contradicts you or presents different ideas or solutions, listen and praise them for speaking their minds. Make it clear that no one is punished for ideas, whether they work out or not. Give credit, rewards, and recognition to employees who come up with new ideas. A financial incentive and public praise within the company can help them share in the glory of good solutions and inspire others to come forward. Jennings says it's essential for owners to meet with each employee one time, tell them their ideas are valued and invite them to offer suggestions to the company's management. 

Related: 5 Success Tips from Award-Winning Entrepreneurs

Don't be a control freak. Entrepreneurs often have a tough time delegating important responsibilities. The consequence is simple: Delegate or die. Hire smart, creative people and give them specific areas of responsibility. Resist the urge to micromanage--if the task or project was done well, let it stand even if it wasn't done "your way." New approaches might teach you a thing or two. 

Never accept the status quo. "'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is one of the stupidest things ever said in business," Jennings says. You're telling your people to leave things alone until there is a problem instead of actively looking for improvement. Instead, train your managers to be open to new ideas at all times. If there is an environment of indifference in embracing ideas or rejecting them before they've even been heard, you are losing out on innovation opportunities.

Related: A Secret to Creative Problem Solving

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