Liz Griffith, senior marketing and communications officer at LSE, in conversation with Dr Connson Locke & Prof Saul Estrin.
Why do organisations need innovative leaders?
Today’s leaders need to be creative and innovative to stay ahead. In today’s fast-moving and highly competitive business world, truly successful organisations are those which drive progress. Innovative leadership is essential to enable organisations to rise above their competition and retain sustainable lead positioning in competitive markets, and also to capitalise on – rather than simply cope with – rapid external changes such as technological advances, geo-political turbulence and shifts in regional economic power across the globe.
Two things that successful innovation relies on are good business sense and intellectual creativity – particularly in making new and sometimes radical connections between previously unrelated ideas and concepts. Those connections cannot be made unless one has developed a broad understanding of the theories and practices at play in the wider business world.
Dr Connson Locke and Professor Saul Estrin are directors of executive education programmes in leadership and management at the London School of Economics’ Department of Management. Across each of these programmes – from one-week short courses to two-year executive degrees – the fundamental focus is on developing critical thinking skills, deconstructing management trends in the broader business world and understanding the findings and implications arising from cutting-edge research in order to provide managers and leaders with the intellectual agility and scope necessary when facing uncharted waters to create the spark for innovation, and achieve organisational success.
Developing a balanced organisational strategy for leadership development
A common way of stifling innovation is relying too much on internal expertise and influences to advance staff. As leaders can often become immersed in their own organisations, so too can the strategy for developing high-potential leaders which can often become centred on the company’s immediate environment.
Dr Locke says, “Organisations like to invest in training that’s customised for their particular organisation as, often, learning and development managers believe that their staff won’t get the most value out of something unless it’s customised for exactly what their industry or their company needs.”
However, this type of professional development can actually result in developing narrower, more internally-focused perspectives which limit the opportunity for innovation, as emerging leaders do not have access to the broader scope of ideas and concepts available in the external global business environment.
Prof Estrin says, “A successful leader in this rapidly changing and complex world has to be constantly learning and listening in order to understand how their own business models actually work in different national contexts, the threats that those contexts are creating and how the capabilities of the company must be adjusted to meet those challenges.”
Executive education can add significant value when balanced with internal organisational training. When managers come out of their organisations to engage in executive education, they are forced to challenge their own perspectives and widen their horizons by gaining access to a network of executives from different companies, industries, and countries – all with their own practices and ideas to consider from their own organisations.
Sparking innovation by broadening horizons
Dr Locke says, “I think it’s really important for people who want to be effective leaders to have that ‘big picture’ view, otherwise you just end up in this narrow perspective within your own organisation and you can’t see beyond it. That’s not an effective business strategy in the long run, and organisations should think strategically about this.”
The opportunity to learn from peers as well as from instructors is another key benefit of executive education. Student cohorts at this level are typically extremely diverse in terms of nationality, job function and industry – not to mention cultural and educational background. This creates an optimum environment for executives to be exposed to a wealth of varying, often contrasting, perspectives, and provides the opportunity to learn from the experiences of those around them. Broadening leaders’ perspectives in this way is essential to igniting new ideas and driving innovation.
About Professor Saul Estrin and Dr Connson Locke
Professor Saul Estrin
Saul is deputy head of department and professor of management in the LSE Department of Management. He is an expert on global foreign direct investment, and programme director of the Executive Global Masters in management.
Dr Connson Locke
Connson is assistant professor of management in the LSE Department of Management. She is deputy programme director for the Executive Global Masters in management, as well as a programme director for the LSE Executive Summer School.