Innovative leadership in 3 simple steps: Know, Show & Let Go

Is our DNA evident across all we do? 

Along with another colleague on the senior leadership team, I am responsible for ensuring that leadership and innovation are embedded deeply and are part of the DNA of the school. These two elements are essential to our identity.

What is DNA? From a scientific perspective it is deoxyribonucleic acid, the carrier of genetic information. The term is also used metaphorically to describe the distinctive characteristics of an organisation’s culture and identity, yet unlike the body’s DNA that is set, this needs to be regularly communicated, reinforced and supported.

I have found the idea by futurist, Joel Barker a very useful description of what leaders need to do.

 We manage within a paradigm and lead between paradigms.

DNA

What is a paradigm? It’s a pattern, a model or a set of practices that define what we do, both now and into the future.

As leaders we need to simultaneously manage the current paradigm, getting ‘this’ job done, and lead our people toward a new paradigm. Both are essential:

  • Managing in present: organising people and resources within the current context

  • Leading to the future: taking people to a new ‘place’

We are usually very comfortable in the present, we know what needs to be done and how to get it done. Often our people are more than happy to stay where we are right now, it’s known and comfortable. If we are leaders, however, we also know we must be taking them somewhere. Whether it is their personal growth, or organisational progress. We are taking our teams, organisation or even our family to something better.

What is innovation? At the root of the word ‘innovation’ is ‘nova’, which means ‘new’. Innovation may be values, solution or practices that meet new and emerging requirements. To you and your team ‘innovation’ may mean growth, new markets or reinvention, whatever the context – people need good leaders.

So how do we practically lead our teams to this new paradigm of innovation?

Know, Show and Let Go

Know Show Let go

Know (not assume)

  • Your people

  • The job to be done

  • The values that shape us

Show (not just tell)

  • What’s to be done

  • How to do it

  • The attitudes and behaviours we expect

Let go (not control)

  • Release your team to do

  • Observe

  • Assess and plan

This is a cyclical process, once you let go, observe and assess. We soon see what people don’t know or now need to know and then repeat… ad infinitum.

@anneknock