What makes a great leader? The HBR ABCs of leading innovation

The ABCs of leading innovation - Harvard Business Review Leadership Framework: Be an Architect, Bridger, and Catalyst. Free PDF download.

What makes a great leader? The HBR ABCs of leading innovation
The ABCs of leading innovation - Architect, Bridger, and Catalyst

Great leaders inspire, challenge, and support those around them. Great leaders do this every day at work. Leadership is not a title or position but rather a set of authentic behaviors anyone can adopt at any point in their career.

Great leaders can see challenges as opportunities instead of roadblocks, build strong relationships with team members, and inspire trust and confidence in their teams.

So, what makes a great leader? Nowadays, it is less about setting direction and getting people to follow you to the future. It is more about getting your people to co-create it with you to be innovative and agile in today's dynamic world. If organizations are more elegant and creative than they are, they usually don't have the leadership they need.

Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a process. Learn from Harvard Business Review's new ABCs of leadership: Architect, Bridger, and Catalyst by Linda A. Hill.

A Great Leader Is an Architect

A great leader is an architect who builds up a company's culture and capabilities for innovation.

Innovation is not about a single person having an "aha" moment. It is all about collaboration between individuals with different expertise and knowledge. A leader who sees challenges as opportunities will inspire their team members to collaborate, experiment, and find creative solutions to problems (with some speed). A great leader will create an open, collaborative environment so their team members feel empowered to solve problems in the way that makes the most sense for their specific situation. The role of a great leader is to unleash collective genius and harness the diverse expertise in his team.

A Great Leader Is a Bridger

A great leader is a bridger who forges partnerships outside his organization.

A leader driving innovation goes outside the organization to access talents and tools. A great leader knows he needs to have all the skills and tools inside the organization to innovate at speed and scale. This goes especially in the digital space, where companies are typically embedded in interdependencies. A great leader focuses on his team's core capabilities and helps his team build strong relationships with partners outside the organization, using their knowledge, skills, and strengths to maximize impact.

A Great Leader Is a Catalyst

A great leader is a catalyst who accelerates co-creation across the entire ecosystem.

A leader driving innovation makes sure his partners innovate in a way that empowers his purpose. This is achieved by creating capabilities and competencies in the whole ecosystem. A great leader lifts the entire ecosystem, so everyone gets lifted and benefits from the collaboration. Nobody is perfect, but an ecosystem can be.

Together, All Three Behaviors Create Great Leadership

What makes a great leader? Be an Architect, Bridger and Catalyst

The ABCs - Architect, Briger, Catalyst - are very interconnected. When someone exhibits all three behaviors, they are a great leader. When we combine these three characteristics, a leader creates more capacity across the entire ecosystem to do more innovative work.

Organizations, therefore, have to go outside to get what they need. The role requires new ways of thinking about power. New leaders don’t use formal authority as the source of power and influence. They shape culture, capabilities, and connections between diverse parties to create an environment of mutual trust and joint commitment. Leaders know they can’t force innovation. However, they try to develop partnerships and influence every partner to bring total commitment and willingness to achieve new and breakthrough innovations.

Watch the full Harvard Business Review: What Makes a Great Leader? Youtube Video.

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Architect, Briger, Catalyst - Free PDF template

Download our HBR ABCs of leading innovation framework: Free PDF template

What makes a great leader? The HBR ABCs of leading innovation

Architect, Briger, Catalyst Framework - Download the free PDF template

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