Innovation Leadership Kryptonite — How To Know When To Fire Anti-Innovative Leaders

Building An Innovation Team? Who To Fire: The Five Personas Of Anti-Innovative Leaders

1. Survivors: Long tenured and demonstrating little to no curiosity, these are the types of leaders whose sole goal is to hang on to the status quo. When it comes to change, they seek evermore information versus transformation, and the only information or proof they seek when it comes to innovation is why NOT to do it. Survivors anchor their experiences to things that have failed and gone wrong, and their language to times where they’ve “saved the company from making a big mistake.” Fire.

2. Pragmatists: Like the Survivors, pragmatists are information seekers. They seek proof that the changes implied by innovations will be successful and demonstrate some legitimate curiosity about possibilities. But pragmatists are never satisfied when it comes to the world of “eventualities” versus the reliable world of past performance. Pragmatists love books and case studies and trot them out at every chance to look to the past to prove the future. However, if an idea is truly innovative, it necessarily has little to no precedence, and pragmatists will kill innovation, just as sure as survivors, through “death-by-committee.” Fire.

3. Disruptors: Disruptors are the opposite extreme from survivors and pragmatists. Without a practical bone in their body, disruptors tend to chase every new idea that comes into their minds as if it were gospel, rallying the disenchanted to their cause, using dissent to create support. Often this feels like the legitimate actions of creating “burning platform,” but the disruptor seeks change as a platform for their career climbing rather than demonstrating any real curiosity over the validity of the idea or rallying cross-functional leaders to support the cause. Usually their efforts fail due to lack of proper stakeholder support, and then the language of the disruptor tends to focus on blaming people as barriers versus doing the hard work of finding truly vetted ideas as real opportunities. Fire.

4. Knowers: As mentioned in a previous article the construct of “Learner vs. Knower” is a straightforward distinction rooted in the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. The “knower” persona considers knowledge as power and shows a distinct lack of curiosity in the ideas of others. Recent research has uncovered an even more insidious side to “knower” behavior. In her book “Conversational Intelligence,” Judith Glaser shares how language and behavior typified by the knower actually shuts down the prefrontal cortexes of those interacting with them. Knower behavior literally causes the team to become dumber. Fire.

5. Victims: As documented and popularized by David Emerald in his great book “The Power of TED,” victim mentality and language is easy to identify. “Victims” are individuals who repeatedly fail to take accountability for their own role in the events of their life and career. Nothing is ever their fault and the world conspires to put them down and make them unsuccessful. The innovator mindset of possibility is the exact inverse of the victim mentality of impossibility. Fire.

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