Love and lead through change

Leaders make or break the innovation process. As well as staying on top of current issues, they must look beyond to those “unknown unknowns” and ensure the right settings to encourage innovative thinking and practice. They must be comfortable with change, challenge the status quo, and somehow ensure these key attributes become part of organisational DNA. High-tech companies like Google are held up as examples of new leadership and organisational models, yet they too are wary of inertia. New Google Australia Managing Director, Nick Leeder, sees Google as a legacy business with similar issues to any other. “If you look at what we’re doing, Google is a business that is built to innovate and execute,” Leeder told Business Spectator. “And we’re right in the throes now of starting to need to cannibalise some of our own products… Your choice is do you choose to hold back the development of the new thing in an effort to protect the old, which is exactly the dynamics that a lot of businesses face, or do you choose to innovate and hope that when you get to that new place there’s money to be made?” At the other end of the spectrum is the troubled auto industry, yet Nissan was recently named among Fast Company’s 50 most innovative companies because of its brave investment in the Leaf, the first mass-market, all-electric car. Not only did CEO Carlos Ghosn have to convince the market – he also had to win over sceptical employees. “We had to explain why electric is huge for the industry,” Ghosn says. “People need to feel the passion, vision, determination, and focus. I didn’t say it was going to be easy or safe. I said it would be a challenge — but if someone could do it, it would be us.” For the Brazilian-born CEO, major change is part of life. “It is uncomfortable, but what makes our job interesting is that it’s not routine. I can’t imagine two years down the road I’ll be doing the same thing I am doing today. I’ll have to adjust. Every generation needs to learn how to relearn.”

 

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