Most of us aspire to be innovative leaders. The push for 21st century learning, coupled with the technological revolution, has advanced the awareness of innovation and has propelled innovation to the fore as a leadership ideal. In the coming months, we will highlight a variety of different innovations affecting Christian education. Before we explore individual innovations, we will consider the topic of leadership and innovation.
Leading innovation is challenging. As leaders, we face numerous decisions regarding innovation. Which innovation? Why innovate? How do we get buy-in? Will this make our organization better? There are many, many questions. In this four part blog series, we will look at four key areas for leading innovation: communicating vision, implementing innovation, promoting an innovative culture, and avoiding innovation burnout.
Leaders need to have vision. This vision can be original or it can be obtained from other innovative leaders. In future Innovator’s Lab blogs, there will be ample opportunity to hone your vision for the future. In my experience, the challenge is not in obtaining a vision, it is in communicating, implementing, promoting, and completing the vision. Innovators are not primarily thinkers; they are doers.
In recent weeks, thanks to my pastor’s sermon series, I have been wrestling with the story of Joseph and the topic of communicating a vision. The story of Joseph teaches us two very important lessons about communicating our dreams. First, it reminds us that how we communicate can overshadow what we communicate. Second, the story of Joseph demonstrates that having a vision and communicating a vision are not the same as fulfilling a vision.
How We Communicate
Innovators are visionaries. They have plans, hopes, and dreams. Often, these dreams are audacious and revolutionary. But how do we communicate this to those we lead? The story of Joseph illustrates what we should not do. Joseph clearly had a dream about the future. His problem was that he was arrogant and self-centered. He was quick to communicate his vision to his brothers and his communication was haughty and proud. Ultimately, his inability to communicate his vision humbly and honorably led to his brother’s selling him into slavery.
Likewise, innovative leaders are smart. They are gifted and can often see beyond those they lead. They have dreams. The story of Joseph reminds us that having a vision is different than communicating the vision. Innovative leaders need to humbly and gently cast the vision for the future, ensuring that the vision is not about their personal gain but about the good of the community or organization. How we communicate overshadows what we communicate every time.
Communicating and Fulfilling a Vision
Innovative leaders are driven. They typically like to accomplish tasks. This can lead to impetuousness and impulsivity. In communicating our vision, we need to realize that having a vision and communicating the vision does not lead to immediate fulfillment of the vision. Joseph’s dream was a real dream. It was going to come true. In his youthful pride, he arrogantly communicated his vision to his brothers; however, Joseph didn’t know how God was going to fulfill his dream. His communication presumed God’s immediate fulfillment.
As we lead innovation in our schools, we need to carefully communicate our vision in love and humility and need to remember that even God’s plans can take years to materialize. I am certain that Joseph was eager to have his dreams come true. Perhaps his brother’s hatred was due to his insistence on aiding the fulfillment of his dream. Regardless, Joseph learned that God is seldom early but never late. Similarly, innovative leaders should rejoice in a clear vision, but they should not presume that the vision will be fulfilled immediately.
In future blogs, we will explore steps to implement and promote innovation. For now, we need to prayerfully consider our dreams for the future and how we will communicate those dreams to those we lead. Ultimately, innovative Christian leaders will humbly and graciously communicate the vision in a way that minimizes self-focus and recognizes the need for God’s timing to fulfill the vision. Once we grasp these truths, we are prepared to launch our vision and begin innovating!