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Posted on August 29th, 2012, by

Importance of innovation strategy choice was explained in the essay. Four models of innovative leadership were analyzed; their common features and differences were shown in the chart. The process of implementing an innovation, possible risks, conscious and unconscious flaws were considered. The case of telecommunications company introducing IPTV service was discussed. Necessary leadership qualities and important features for the chosen innovation were determined.


Keywords: innovation leadership models, telecommunications, conscious and unconscious flaws, creativity.


Nowadays one of the most important elements of development strategy of any company is innovation strategy. In fact, innovations are key elements that distinguish a company among others and therefore characterize its position on the competitive market. It would even be possible to say that innovation strategy, in this fast changing world, is that very factor that determines the success or decline of a company (Maidique, 1980, p.59).

Research (Kirkpatrick, Locke, 1991, p. 52)  shows that managers who are successfully introducing innovations in the company usually have strong leadership characteristics as well. There are several models of innovation leadership. The aim of this essay is to analyze and compare models of innovation leadership, and discuss an example of innovation together with associated risks and factors influencing the innovative choice. A telecommunications company has been chosen for the analysis because it is a rapidly growing business branch where innovations are even more important than in the whole business sphere in general. The company originally deals with cablecasting and Internet services.

1. Models of innovation leadership

Managers working with innovative issues have proven to show particular personal features. There are 4 different models of innovative leadership. One of the tasks of the essay is to describe each model briefly and compare them in the chart. Thus, the main innovative leader roles are (Barczak, Wilemon, 1989, p.262):

  • charismatic: the leader communicates an innovation vision, stimulate  other people to innovate and increase in rate of innovation processes
  • instrumental: the leader structures and check innovation processes
  • strategic: the leader uses his position force in favour of organizational innovation
  • interactive: the leader empowers others to find some innovations and cooperates with them to innovate and explain them how to become innovation leaders in the organization themselves.

The chart will include several visible characteristics that are common for one or more models of innovative leadership. So, an innovative leader:

  • Communicates with people concerning innovation issues (1)
  • Actively interacts with innovative ideas (2)
  • Motivates people to participate in innovation process (3)
  • Takes innovative risks (4)
  • Has authority for key innovative ideas (5)
  • Plans and sets tasks for the innovation process (6)
  • Influences team innovativeness (7)
  • Acts a catalyst of innovation process (8)
  • Deals with organizational innovative issues (9)
  • Controls innovation processes (10)

Let us analyze which actions are peculiar to 4 selected models of innovative leadership. The results are listed in Table 1 (one should take into account that all 10 listed features are necessary for each kind of leadership, but each model has most distinctive features; i.e. if the factor is not marked for some model, this means that this kind of leaders is less likely to show such qualities compared to the other kinds).


Factor \ Leader




































Table 1. Characteristic features of innovation leadership models


One can see that several features such as factor 1 (communication with people) and factor 3 (motivating people) are common for most kinds of leaders. However, each model has its specific strengths and weaknesses. Charismatic leaders are best in starting the process, but are not great in implementing the idea; typical instrumental leaders are vital organizers of innovative process but can’t act as idea generators (Harmsen, Grunert, Declerck, 2000, p.160). Strategic leaders are irreplaceable in promoting and developing the innovation process but may be not the best motivators for subordinates, and finally, interactive leaders’ main function is to share their leadership and motivate others,  but they are likely to forget about details of realization.

One can conclude that all 4 types of innovation leadership are important for successful innovation process. One person is unlikely to combine all these qualities, thus leaders also need to share duties and to work with their own sectors of influence (Nadler, Tushman, 1990, p.82). For example, regarding the chosen case telecommunications company it may be necessary to have at least 2 innovation leaders as heads of the divisions responsible for the most technologically complicated works, 2 or 3 interactive leaders in key positions in case of significant innovations, at least one or two instrumental leaders as heads of organizational and implementation departments, and one instrumental leader to promote and support the ideas.

2. Choice of innovation and related risks

The chosen innovation is the interaction television service (IPTV), which is a result of combining electronic media and information technologies.  IPTV allows the client to order a package of interactive services giving the possibility to watch TV anytime without being attached to the TV programme. It can be quite possible that offering such kind of service will give a lot of competitive advantage to the company, namely:

  • Attract new clients because such service is relatively new and convenient for people
  • Improve the company’s image and make the company known among others in this field
  • Offer extra propositions to the existing clients and therefore get better revenue

 2.1. Associated risks

Any innovation is first of all based on taking a risk. In our case there is a great number of risks, both personal and organizational (Harmsen, Grunert, Declerck, 2000, p.163). The personal part of them is related to characteristics of the organization’s leader and his influence on the process as well as ability to motivate people.

First of all, it’s necessary to persuade subordinates that that idea is fruitful and to ensure that there are enough financial and technical possibilities to realize the innovation (though this relates more to organizational risks). Secondly, there is a risk that the idea will fail because there are not enough clients to get the minimal revenue necessary to promote and support the initiative. As for organizational risks, it’s also necessary to take into account that the deepest point of crisis in the world has not been reached yet, and therefore revenue expectations need to be estimated at minimal level. One more related risk is that during crisis situation people tend to cut first of all on non-vital products and services, and telecommunications is one of such services. Finally, there is high organizational risk related to necessary equipment and personal necessary for implementing the innovation. Besides financial issues, in the case of introducing new TV service technical issues are most important.

2.2. Flaws influencing the decision

There are several conscious flaws that might influence the decision concerning the IPTV innovation. The main of them is the assumption that people really need additional TV services. This depends mostly on the character of population and its structure; in regions with low income people won’t accept the innovation because of its price and will continue using customary services; in other regions population may not be interested in TV services but will order Internet packages primarily. So, the main conscious flaw is based on the assumption that the chosen innovation will be important and necessary for the clients.

As for unconscious flaws, it may be the underestimation of Internet technologies. Online television, online music channels from the whole world and other benefits of World Wide Web might probably reduce the importance and necessity of the chosen service. However, to find out whether someone will order IPTV or rather use Internet is quite difficult since it is primarily personal decision. Of course, questionnaires and analysis of public opinion may give some results, but the whole fact of questioning can reduce the competitive advantage of introducing new service; therefore, this possible factor can be regarded as unconscious one. One more unconscious factor is personal attitude to new technologies and to television in general. If the leader is not interested in television and does not consider that TV market is important for the company, he is unlikely to support the idea, and vice versa.

2.3. Impact of flaws on creativity and innovation

Regarding the chosen example, possible flaws are unlikely to influence the innovation itself because the technical mechanisms of realizing it are independent from these factors; however, creativity and attitude to the innovation can be significantly influenced by the above-mentioned factors. For example, the last factor (attitude of the leader to television) can influence the whole team and therefore increase or reduce creativity, depending on the kind of attitude. Interest of clients to the innovation may also influence creativity. Regarding the chosen innovation, the head of the organization needs to involve interactive or charismatic kinds of leaders because their qualities are most important for success of this innovation.

2.4. Importance of self-awareness

Any innovation, and in particular introducing the IPTV service in telecommunications company, requires from the leader to be sure about the success of the idea and the ability to motivate others as well as share the enthusiasm (interactive leaders). However, the risks of implementing the innovation are rather high, and therefore the leader needs to be completely aware of what he or she is doing. Even if implementation of the innovation seems to fail and go wrong, the leader’s primary objective is to inspire the team and move forward. On the other hand, if the idea has proven to be unproductive, the leader should analyze the consequences and should be able to give up and change the direction of actions in time. All these qualities require specific personal characteristics and self-awareness above all.


The analyzed models of innovative leadership have shown that there are 4 kinds of leaders and each of them has a special role in the process of introducing the innovation and implementing it. However, the necessary qualities that are required from the leader depend also on the kind of innovation and possible risks related with it. In the regarded case, charismatic and interactive leadership has proven to be the most important.

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