How Effective Innovators are Leading 2021 with Humanity and Humility

As we step out of yesterday’s shadow and aim to rediscover a sense of optimism, 2021 is already looking less like a return to normalcy and more like a new era of agility and resilience.

Innovation Insights
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3
 Min read
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January 13, 2021

How Effective Innovators are Leading 2021 with Humanity and Humility

As we step out of yesterday’s shadow and aim to rediscover a sense of optimism, 2021 is already looking less like a return to normalcy and more like a new era of agility and resilience. From families to factories, 2020 forced reassessment and re-creation of processes and expectations. Through the significant challenges, we’ve counted on innovative leadership like never before.

Now, the vaccine is arriving, and hopefully, immunity is impending, the days seem to be getting a little brighter. Does that mean the spirits of agility and innovation are fading into memory? Not in the slightest. Innovative leadership that was a necessity in 2020 has become a competitive advantage in 2021. Modern leadership might be divided into BC (Before COVID) and AV (After Vaccine), and those who will thrive—AV are the innovators among us.

How did leaders expand their portfolio and add value during the pandemic? Which of their practices are built to last and launch the AV era of added value, advancing vision, and amazing vigor? In 2021, those effective innovators will lead with humanity and humility.  

Leadership is always in demand, but crisis and disruption are twin catalysts that spawn uniquely innovative leaders. In 2020, leaders in medicine served and depended on humanity as they developed, tested, and deployed multiple, effective vaccines in less than a year. Innovative leaders in other industries can follow suit by looking to human capital as a source of undeveloped capacity. The people and teams you already lead may carry solutions and strategies that can solve intractable problems and invent unexpected approaches. Introducing artificial constraints or crisis scenarios can help teams focus their capacity to adapt and improvise. Why not grow beyond the unstructured model of “genius time” Google borrowed from 3M and emulate the ingenuity of those who have redefined industries and processes to keep their businesses running in 2020? The innovative leaders who thrive AV will do so in part by focusing on humanity as the first and best solution.

Though not exactly opposites, the poles of stubbornness and humility formed a spectrum of leadership. Those leaders who decided early, dug in, and refused to adapt were later assailed for pronouncements that didn’t age well. In contrast, leaders who modeled humility, by owning their words and adjusting their plans, found paths to persevere. Humble leaders didn’t generate as much heat as defiant ones, but they held businesses and communities together in new and meaningful ways.  

The pandemic, protests, and politics of 2020 were not unique to the U.S, or any nation’s history. The confluence of crazy was brutal, but even that struggle can give us good lessons. When leaders can build on humanity as an engine of innovation, and nurture communities with common humility, then both the confident people we need and the creative ideas they generate will be in reliable supply for the next shared challenge.

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