By Dr. Michael O’Connor
In today’s fast-changing world, we need leadership more than ever. Seize opportunities to make an impact. To inspire. To raise up voices that have been ignored. To create beauty. To continue learning. Leadership can be found in everything that we do at work and at home. It is important to be a leader that can help improve others. Effective leadership will create innovative products and services. Leadership is an important part of innovation project management. It is the area that is new in thought, and I believe we will need it to better define this area as leaders to move the next generation of project leaders and into future success.
Leadership in innovation project management can mean many different things to people. It is much more than just being a manager or supervisor. Leaders step up and create innovation, a direction, a vision, or strategy for others to follow. I believe strong leadership creates successful innovative projects. Project, program, portfolio and PMO management need leaders that have this direction, vision, or strategy. Leadership is the basic building block for successful innovative projects and improved successful outcomes.
Effective leadership skills are skills that can be applied to the workplace and advance the organization. These are very important to create innovation and innovation project management. First, I believe that one must know their strengths and weaknesses to be a more effective leader. Being able to know your Myers-Briggs or MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®) is a good start to understand your personality type. I have taken these three times and I’ve received the same result as an ENTJ – (Extroverted (E), Intuitive (N), Thinking (T), and Judging (J).) The framework focuses on four key areas: energy, information, decisions and approaching the outside world. I have taken this information and built my career and leadership style with this framework in mind. I have added this to my introduction PPTX, *PowerPoint Microsoft Open XML*, one pager and my CV. Since we utilize this in my organization, it better helps me understand the work I am preforming, and how others get their work completed to create a more effective leadership stance for myself and the team.
The second area I believe a leader should know and be in touch with is how they score in the strength finder assessment. This is a tool that identifies your personal talent and skills. Again, I have taken this twice and scored nearly the same. It is very simple to apply the results. You first complete an assessment that is straight forward, and it will take less than an hour. You will then get a customized set of results and report to understand your talents. Once you have your report, you can review the leadership opportunities and work with your teams to improve how you all create effective leadership skills and improve innovation project management. This will empower you as a leader and will also create more efficiency among your group and the organization. I utilize this information when I have a new project team or initiative to get a better idea of each person’s strengths.
As a leader you need to be fully understood by the individual and apply skills such as gratitude and acknowledgement appropriately in the group and organization. For innovation project management to be successful, I believe that the power skills need to be fully understood and applied. This is where from my past experiences, things can get difficult. A leader and innovation project management practitioner must navigate these power skills to be solid leaders. Power skills as a leader and in innovation project management can be difficult to learn in a book, online, or in the classroom. Many of these skills need to be experienced in a work setting. I have worked to create many different leadership experiences in many different functional groups within my organization and career. Creating different career experiences make you an improved and more rounded leader. By having these experiences and being able to see power skills applied with many different lenses has made me a better leader and helped me better understand the innovation cycle, and how innovation project management can be improved by applying power skills. This is also where being connected in your organization can help you find these types of different experiences.
Connecting, networking and collaboration are also important leadership activities that will improve innovation project management. Not only as a leader do you need to carry your strategy, tactics, and deliverables, you also need to meet new people in various groups and functions to build your brand and work with other leaders across the organization. I think this is one of the most impactful areas in which leaders can quickly improve their ability to lead in the organization and be able to work across many different groups to move innovation project management successfully at the organization. It takes time to meet with leaders and work with them to better understand their wants and needs, but this activity even performed at 5% a week will have a large payback in the short and long run. Networking with others on LinkedIn is a great way to meet people in and out of your organization.
Finally, communication is a proactive project management leadership skill that will tie many of the skills a leader needs to possess in innovation project management to be fully effective and move the needle in a positive direction. Communication comes in many forms today; face to face discussions, phone calls, emails, text, and IM to name a few. To be a successful leader in innovation project management, you need to understand the communication needs of your stakeholders and have a plan to create the highest leadership value. We are all utilizing new ways of communication due to the latest changes within the last few years globally. Tools such as ZOOM, and MS Teams are prime examples of communication tools that the modern-day innovation project manager will need to be proficient in. Communication is the heart and soul of an effective leader, and innovation project management also requires these skills. While new generations turn to different modes of communication, a good leader will change their style or methods to accommodate others and create the highest value for overall organization success.
Dr. Michael O’Connor is a Senior Research Program Director, Program Management with Medtronic. He has over 37 years of professional experience and 33 years of professional experience in the Medical Device Industry. O’Connor earned his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, majoring in Project Management, from the University of Maryland, College Park, A. James School of Engineering. He is a currently and a former Director at Large for the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) and has volunteered his time with many Professional Societies and Universities/Colleges over the past 20+ years. In addition to Medtronic, his corporate experience includes 3M and Pfizer.
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Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.