The UK has a long history of innovation, having driven world-changing shifts in technology over the centuries. However, in the rapidly changing global market of today, it is crucial for UK organisations to be innovative to stay competitive in the market, grow and ensure continued success.

The Government Innovation strategy published in July 2021 has a vision to increase innovation and productivity in the UK economy with skills being a central theme. Skills are key to leading innovation because behind each new idea, product, or service, you will find an innovative leader with their own leadership style and for that business to scale, the leader will need to ensure that they have the right people, with the right skills at the right time, focussed on delivering the right outcomes.

Leadership Development for Innovators

Being a successful innovator demands more than just ideas. Without innovative leadership, it is difficult for growing businesses to survive let alone thrive. To be truly high performing and impactful, a broader set of management skills, leadership skills and leadership qualities are required. Here are some key areas of focus to help grow and become an innovation leader.

Growth mindset

Successful innovation leaders, such as Steve Jobs, adopt a growth mindset and encourage it in those that they work with. “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat.” – Steve Jobs. This mindset encourages measured risk-taking, learning from failure, and embracing challenges head-on, reframing them as an opportunity for growth.

A growth mindset can be developed through challenges provided by a coach, for example, acting as a critical friend to support professional development and improve leadership skills. MAD-HR can provide experienced coaches that will support the development of this mindset and help you and your leaders to progress.

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Foster a Culture of Creativity

Nurturing a safe space for and culture of creativity empowers team members to think freely, encourages different perspectives, and promotes open communication. Leaders who create an environment where every team member feels valued and confident to share unconventional ideas without judgement will benefit from increased engagement, performance, and customer satisfaction and this ultimately will be shown on the bottom line.

Harvard Business Review: “Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity… – just the types of behaviour that lead to market breakthroughs.”

Walk the walk

Leading by example sets the tone by consistently demonstrating the behaviours desired as a role model. This could include diving into challenges, demonstrating resilience in the face of setbacks, and embracing calculated risks. Leading by example inspires trust and respect among team members.


The global business landscape is ever-changing, and according to David Zaragoza, “No organisation can change or innovate unless leaders initiate and sustain the process.” So successful leaders must be agile and adaptable to initiate and sustain innovation. Embracing change and staying open to new perspectives and ideas are essential traits of innovative leaders. This adaptability allows them to respond quickly to market shifts and technological advancements, seizing opportunities.

Know your strengths

Innovation seldom happens or scales in isolation; a good leader will recognise their strengths and weaknesses, delegating tasks where possible to subject experts within or outside the organisation, for example, outsourcing HR support to a specialist consultancy such as MAD-HR.

Steven Bartlett (The Diary of a CEO and Dragons Den) often highlights in his podcast that discovering this was a key moment in his success. “It’s not about having all the answers yourself; it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people who do. And if you’re not delegating, then the harsh reality is you’re doing multiple jobs poorly.”

Cross-functional collaboration sparks creativity, bringing together various skill sets and expertise that can lead to groundbreaking solutions and change at pace.

Strategic People Planning for Innovators

A People Strategy is the roadmap to attracting, retaining and growing the talent that you need to make your vision a reality. When visiting organisations, we often see very detailed visions for the business and product development, financial plans and marketing strategies but there has often been little if any consideration of the people that will make this happen.

Your People Strategy will be informed by and is an extension of the plans you most likely already have. It requires a vision of where you need to get to or the problem that you are trying to solve and the activities or work that will be needed to get you there. Consider how you will know that you have been successful by identifying some specific measures and metrics that you can track. Just as you would be monitoring your financial and sales reporting and adjusting plans, track your progress with your people plan and refine it along the way.

Overall, innovation leadership isn’t just about ideas and a big R&D budget. It’s about mastering a set of mindsets, skills, and behaviours that enable and empower yourself and those around you to deliver results. Sustaining this is demanding but will bring rewards in the long run. In order to scale this innovation, ensure that you have a people plan that aligns with your business plan, making your Vision a reality.

If you are looking to enhance your leadership team, MAD-HR can deliver bespoke Leadership Development programmes that create an impact with supporting diagnostic tools such as personality profiling and 360-degree feedback. Our HR Consultants can support you in preparing a Strategic People Plan that aligns with your financial and operational plans to leverage your greatest resource, your people.