Jaap Boonstra

Leaders who promote an innovation-friendly workplace culture are crucial in a constantly changing world filled with turbulent transformations. Without innovation, leaders and organisations are doomed to failure.

Champions of innovation are usually authentic, charismatic leaders with a high need for achievement.

What types of leaders are best suited to promote meaningful changes and embrace sustainable innovation at companies? These are the four leadership styles most likely to succeed in implementing a workplace culture that thrives on innovation:

1. Entrepreneurial leadership

Entrepreneurs want to start something new, something they believe in. They have a huge drive, a powerful motivation and a high need for achievement. With their dream, they appeal to others who share this dream and their vision for the future. This attitude makes them charismatic.

Entrepreneurs look for people who fit in with their dream and are willing to participate and support the initiative. As the founders of the business, they create the organisational culture based on their values and drivers. They are usually inspiring and demanding.

Entrepreneurial leaders experience tensions when the organisation becomes successful and starts to grow

Their action mindset is very strong and their strategic and transformational mindsets are well developed. They are able to develop disruptive innovations that may threaten existing businesses.

Entrepreneurial leaders experience tensions when the organisation becomes successful and starts to grow. In a growing organisation, there is a need for adaptation and coordination, which requires another leadership style.

2. Transformational leadership

Transformational leaders have a deep understanding of the fundamental values in our society and of people's social and emotional needs. They are aware of their environment and socially conscious.

Transformational leaders are curious, explorative and have broad interests. They have a learning attitude, self-awareness, and knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses.

Transformational leaders know their strengths and weaknesses

They are capable of seeing connections between various developments, understanding incidental disruptions to a work system, and recognising symptoms of fundamental change.

They are aware of the values and standards of a social system and recognise when those rules have to be modified. They listen to others and are able to trust others and build trust. They are inspiring, and they know how they must operate administratively in order to solve conflicts and make cultural changes.

3. Charismatic leadership

Meaningful leaders deliberately pay attention to specific cases and events. In crisis situations, they step forward to identify the situation and tackle it. They are explicit about what they believe is important, what they attach value to, and what they definitely do not want.

Initiators of cultural change name events, share interpretations and invite others to share their vision. With this approach, they allow space for dialogue and for the creation of meaning. Through these interactions, together with others, they form the organisation's culture. They also inspire others by telling stories.

4. Participative leadership

Participative leaders know what is important inside and outside the organisation. They are conscious of their environment, have social consciousness and are self-aware. Through sensitivity to what is happening around them, they see new possibilities.

They know what is happening in the organisation and what people allow themselves to be controlled by. This enables them to connect to the emotions and ambitions of others and they are able to direct the energy of the organisation's people towards the future.

Participative leaders are not afraid to discuss emotions

They know who they are and they know their own motives. They are accessible and approachable. They ask others what they think, organise honest feedback and are not afraid to discuss emotions.

These leaders know themselves and understand their strengths and weaknesses. They know when to consult others to overcome their blind spots.

Innovative organisations invest in a leadership style based on transformational, charismatic, participative and entrepreneurial leadership qualities. They guide talented young new leaders through leadership programmes, encourage new initiatives, trust in delegation, encourage teamwork and provide collegial support.

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