As a leader, your number one job is to get out of the way.
This doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, be involved in the process. It means the process does not revolve around you. Some leaders learn this lesson the hard way, but it’s what separates a boss from a leader.
Assemble the Right Team
Starkey is a hearing healthcare company of more than 6,000 employees in 26 facilities around the world. Innovation isn’t just something we talk about. It’s something we do. But Starkey wouldn’t be able to move at the speed of innovation with me micromanaging every step along the way.
Leaders must assemble the right team, and once you have those people in place, let them do their jobs. I personally don’t know how to put artificial intelligence into a hearing aid so it can track its wearer’s body and brain activity. So I brought in Achin Bhowmik, Ph.D., one of the top minds in perceptual computing and someone who believes in what Starkey wants to do and why we want to do it.
Since then, our team has added fall detection and alerts, tools for caregivers and is working on technology that will help people monitor brain states. And what comes next is stuff that only a motivated team of innovative minds could even think up. Assemble your team and let them run.
Innovation Beyond Technology
Every one of your employees is an innovator — regardless of their position in the organization. Once you have the right team in place, leaders must believe innovation is around every corner. More importantly, they must empower their teams to believe they are innovators — giving them the tools and the freedom to not only do their jobs, but to dream how they could be done even better.
Encourage Risk Taking
As a leader, you must be a bold thinker. Create a work environment where your team is emboldened and supported to take risks. Innovation doesn’t happen when we are in our comfort zone. Encourage everyone to become comfortable being uncomfortable.
Lead from the Front
Leading from the front is being willing to do whatever you ask of your employees. It means making the big decisions that will drive a company, and then being willing to run and grab someone a cup of coffee.
Leading from the front is also setting the tone, or in Starkey’s case, setting the why. Once a leader has clearly set a purpose, your job is to get everyone moving together in the same direction.
Take Care of Your Team
Culture eats strategy for breakfast. You must lead with values. From our employees to our customers to the millions of people we help hear around the world, it all comes back to people. This is our #StarkeyFamily. If a leader treats everyone like family — with respect and kindness — your team will feel cared for and will work toward your common purpose.
Fostering innovation within a company is not easy. For many leaders, removing themselves from day-to-day work is the most difficult part, but it is step one. You must trust your team. They are the innovators who will shape the next decade and beyond. As a leader, your job is to ensure you don’t stand in their way.