Leadership Competencies

Innovation was once referred to as “the new science of success” by MIT Professor Clayton Christensen.


Leaders responsible for innovation need to be competent in making innovation happen, yet many acknowledge that they are not sure that their practices would yield success. Research on innovation leadership competencies appears to be limited and fragmented.


In a survey amongst 300 Fortune 1000 executives, 95% acknowledged the critical contribution of innovation for the future, yet over 50% reported that they had insufficient systems, tools or processes for fostering innovation. [1]


[1]Harris Interactive. (2010), Fortune 1000 Executives’ perspectives on enterprise; innovation survey results 10/14/2010,New York.


In another study published by McKinsey Quarterly, over 70% of senior executives had identified innovation as one of their top three business drivers into the future. Over 65% of these executives were less than confident about their innovation decisions. This contrast between aspirations and execution was found to have been caused by management not being prepared or skilled for getting the best out of innovation. [2]


For innovation success, leaders need to identify, support, encourage and reward traits like psychological safety, open sharing, idea generation, creativity, passion and commitment.

New competencies are required for leading in the context of increasing demands for innovation, sustained competitive advantage, customer and employee expectations. Research findings suggest that the success behaviours of innovation leaders are different from current leadership behaviours and many managers have not yet been introduced to better ways of managing innovation and feel ill equipped to lead innovation.


Innovation competencies can be seen as inclusion of skills, knowledge and attitudes, including personal competencies and the way they work together for achievement.


If they haven’t already, leaders will increasingly face the responsibility to innovate to rise to the challenges and opportunities that require creativity and the successful implementation of innovative solutions. “Business as usual” practices are unlikely to produce the needed solutions.

[2] Barsh, J. C., Capozzi, M.M. and Davidson, J. (2008), Leadership and innovation.The McKinsey Quarterly,2008 Number 1.New York.

Innovation Leadership Competencies identified by Vlok include the following:


[3] Vlok,A., A leadership competency profile for innovation leaders in a science-based research and innovation organization in South Africa, Department of Business Management, 2012.


Develop and communicate a compelling vision
Ability to shape collective thinking
Ability to lead by example
Provide thought leadership (expressing thinking that is original and different)
Ability to facilitate high-impact decision-making
Demonstrates exceptional leadership skills/abilities

Capability builder

Ability to assess and manage across the innovation value chain
Facilitate improvement, learning/development
Develop and maintain high-performance teams
Facilitate an innovation-enhancing environment
Facilitate knowledge management
Build and maintain high-impact networks


Understand the contextual environment
Clear and compelling communicator
Apply entrepreneurial thinking
Recognized influencer in the external environment


Ability to motivate others to superior performance
Manage individual and group performance
Build a high-performance culture
Ability to achieve results

Vali8 Innovations is a cheerleader for founders, entrepreneurs, product managers and business owners who are looking to innovate and commercialise new products or solutions.  We have designed a framework to accelerate success for businesses in the startup and scale up phase by building tools such as the Valid8 Readiness Score, the Valid8 Compatibility Matrix and the Valid8 Proof of Concept trials.

Are you ready? Increase your chances for success and mitigate founder risks by contacting us.

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