Preparing the Organisation for Creating a Culture of Innovation: The Role of Leadership

Atolagbe Alege Gambari, Director and Head of Department of Legislative Studies, Administrative Staff College of NigeriaAtolagbe Alege Gambari, Director and Head of Department of Legislative Studies, Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, attended Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria, Nigeria and Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Accra, Ghana. He holds a Bachelor of Library Science Degree, Graduate Certificate in Education, (ABU 1982) and a Master degree in Public Sector Management (GIMPA 2006). Mr. Gambari joined the services of the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) in 1983. He has experience in public administration having worked in the public sector in positions such as the head of the Abuja Liaison office of the college between 2008 and 2011. As a trainer and consultant, he has taken part in the design, development and delivery of training programmes and has published articles in academic journals and books. He has also delivered papers at national and international forums.


More than ever before, the success of public administration and management around the world depends, to a large extent, on effective innovation through timely adoption of new approaches to solving existing problems and meeting emerging societal needs. Unfortunately, senior leaders in the public service face challenges including the dilemma of taking risks and maintaining the status quo. In fact, maintaining the status quo is not even an option because of the interacting variables such as advancement in technology, globalized market forces, and dynamic geo-politics. Governments must prepare their public services to be proactive and respond to the numerous challenges that they face by creating a sustainable culture of innovation through public service motivation and engagement, tolerance for risk, bridging organisational boundaries, and responding to societal pressures. This is necessary because leadership performance is founded on the ability of the leader to solve complex problems for which there are no immediate and easy solutions. In order to sustain success during difficult times, senior leaders need to be creative and tap into the creativity of others. The challenge is not whether much-needed creativity skills for leadership success in the 21st century can be identified, but whether individuals can develop these much needed skills. Hence, innovation assumes a major paradigm shift from bureaucratic functioning and control to a focus on quality, service and results.  For instance, in support of the argument, Sorensen and Torfing (2016) contend that western liberal governments have become increasingly interested in promoting public innovation in response to fiscal constraints, the proliferation of problems, citizens’ growing distrust of democratically elected governments, and the socioeconomic challenges associated with globalisation.
In the past, public innovation was perceived as a herculean task due to inherent institutional rigidities in the public sector and lack of market-based competition. But today, public sector organisations view innovation as an inevitable tool for improving governance. In short, innovation is the engine of change and in today’s fiercely competitive environment any organisation resisting change is likely to tread on a perilous path. No doubt, change, while bringing uncertainty and risk, also creates opportunity, and the key driver of the organisation’s ability to change is innovation. However, there is need for caution because simply deciding that the organisation has to be innovative is not sufficient. The decision to innovate must be backed by actions that create conducive environments in which people are so comfortable with innovation that they are compelled to create.
There are hundreds of great examples of innovation and a number of countries have, in fact, leveraged the information and communications technology (ICT) revolution to modernize their service delivery systems. South Africa is a good example (as observed by Balogun 2013) with respect to ‘Batho Pele,’ which roughly translated means ‘People First’. It is a set of principles anchored on a number of pillars including:
  1. Consultation with the citizens and ‘consumers’ of service; and
  2. Development of service standards such as: courtesy, openness, transparency, timeliness, integrity, easeof access, value for money, client’s convenience, and accountability.
In other words, Batho Pele targets different classes of ‘customers,’ including applicants for online services, citizens placing telephone calls to seek information on pending cases and government activities in general, and clients who visit service delivery outlets to find on-the-spot solutions to their problems.
Another example is in the area of public service delivery with particular reference to Nigeria. The old approach in the public service of Nigeria was to have public agencies serve as the sole producer and provider. But  today, this practice has given way to innovative ideas such as Public-Private-Partnership (PPP), outsourcing, performance measurement and so much more. These innovations have transformed the operations of the public service in Nigeria. Moreover, in an interview conducted with the former Head of the Civil Service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, CFR) it is revealed that in an effort to adopt new approaches to management and to develop new skills, the Federal Civil Service of Nigeria has been striving since 1999 to reposition the service for improved service delivery. A major thrust of the reform effort is the capacity building of civil servants through computer-based training activities. The effort also aims to foster acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitude to match the demands of the civil service in the 21st century. More importantly, the goal is to respond to the country’s vision to be among the top 20 economies of the world by year 2020.
It is against this background that this article attempts to identify the intellectual framework for analysis by reviewing relevant literature in support of the arguments as well as citing practical examples.

It could be argued that bureaucracy and innovation (according to Maduabum 2014:1) are inextricably intertwined in that organisations desirous of survival and growth, particularly in a turbulent environment, require the application of both concepts. For instance, whereas bureaucracy introduces specialisation, structure, rules and regulations, predictability, rationality and partial democracy amongst others, innovation brings about positive changes that quite often assists in surmounting impediments in the quest for growth. In other words, it is not only firms that innovate; public sector entities also innovate by introducing new approaches to provide quality public services and better respond to society’s needs.
The public sector includes all public corporations and general government at central, state and local levels. Its duties cover administration, ensuring public order and safety, education, health and social care, and a variety of other functions for citizens and business.
Terms Used in this Article
Some of the terms used in this article are: innovation, empowerment, risk, risk-taking, risk aversion, risk management and creativity.
Innovation refers to the introduction of something novel such as an idea, activity, initiative, structure, programme, or policy. In a public sector context it refers to the creation and implementation of new processes, products, services and methods of delivery that result in significant improvements on the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of outcomes. While defining innovation especially as it is applicable in the public sector, Mulgan and Albury (2003) outline an innovation model involving four steps: generating possibilities; incubating and prototyping; replicating and scaling up and analysing and learning. The hallmark of innovation (Jensen et al 2006) is the application of new ideas to produce better outcomes.

Empowerment means actively seeking input from line managers and staff on decisions to be made concerning their sector’s activities. It also means (Kernaghan 1992) authorizing line managers and staff to make more decisions based on their own judgment and understanding of their organisation’s mission and role. In centralized governance, (Mumford 2002) authorities try to promote empowerment by establishing rules with frameworks for guidance on decision-making. It includes the notion of “enabling” through information sharing, teamwork, and training and development.

The concept of risk arises out of uncertainty concerning exposure to possible loss. It is associated with the notion of probable occurrenceof something and the relative degree of severity of consequence of the occurrence. By extension therefore, risk-taking may refer to a decision to undertake an initiative based on the calculation that unfavourable outcomes can be minimized or that favourable outcomes will outweigh unfavourable outcomes.

However, risk aversion refers to attitude of avoidance of most or all situations which carry a potential for unfavourable outcomes. Risk management (Nottingham 1996), is conceptualized as a logical and systematic method of identifying, analyzing, assessing, treating, monitoring, and communicating risks associated with any activity, process or function in a way that will enable an establishment to minimize losses and maximize opportunities.
Creativity refers to the production of something “novel and useful” (Hunter and Cushehbery 2011). This definition can be applied to products, policies or processes. At this juncture, creative leadership is conceptualized as the ability to deliberately engage one’s imagination to define and guide a group towards a direction that is new for the group. As a consequence of bringing about this creative change, creative leaders (Lee 2006) have a profoundly positive influence on their workplace, community, school, family, etc. and the individuals in that situation.
Nelson Mandela used leadership principles based on transformational style while working to abolish apartheid and enforce change in South Africa. Specifically, in 1995, Mandela visited the widow of the architect of apartheid Hendrik Verwoerd at her home in Orania. Orania is an Afrikaner homeland and a striking anachronistic symbol of racial separation. Mandela’s recurring emphasis on forgiveness contributed towards healing the prejudices of South Africa and exemplified his vast influence as a leader. Again in 2000, Mandela was quoted as saying, “For all people who have found themselves in the position of being in jail and trying to transform society, forgiveness is natural because you have no time to be retaliative.” (Schoemaker, 2013). Mandela set an example for the world leaders to follow in terms of sacrifice. No doubt, the foregoing definitions are inexhaustible as there are many interpretations given by writers on the concepts.

Public sector organisations face a number of inherent barriers with regard to innovation, due in part to the specific contexts in which they operate. These include: complex, rigid organisational structures that limit the flow of information and reduce openness; regulation and formal processes that constrain creativity; and, limited investment for innovation.  A key challenge to the leader is to understand how organisational structures, processes, and competences should be adapted to design, monitor, implement public sector innovations, and make them work efficiently.
Another inhibiting factor is related to cultural barriers. That is, the disruptive nature of innovation can sometimes appear to be at odds with the fundamental role of government institutions of reducing uncertainty and ensuring stability (Bason, 2010). The political context of public sector organisations, their highly visible activities and potentially high consequences of failure can reinforce a culture of risk aversion.
The world of the public service is changing continually, and the changes are galvanised by economic instability, technological revolutions, shifting demographics and global competitiveness. These changes have important effects on public policy and management, and national policy- making is becoming increasingly complex. Today, the impact of government programmes in most countries is not limited to one policy area. More importantly, the changing composition of the work force and the effects of evolving technology on work require public leaders to adopt new approaches to management and to develop new skills in order to manage well and remain relevant.
Other impediments to innovation are the decline of public trust in government and the perceptions that past policies have been ineffective and that governments are unable to solve important economic and social problems. These have led to a loss of respect for public institutions in many countries. In Nigeria for example, introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) did not achieve the desired results. The policy eroded the confidence of the people and the subsequent reform agenda was received with skepticism. In addition, bureaucratic “bashing” by politicians and the media has eroded public confidence in the public sector. These two elements are affecting the public service in several ways. The constant criticism of the public service has a strong negative impact on public service morale and productivity. Secondly, demands for increased transparency and better results in government have resulted in the adoption of new methods of accountability focused on outputs and outcomes. This is rather a difficult challenge when trying to measure the results of policies that are affected by factors beyond the scope of government.
In fact, relations between politicians and bureaucrats in some countries have been affected largely by the increasingly comprehensive mandates of parliamentary audit agencies. These agencies seek to ensure that the public service is implementing policies to the satisfaction of Parliament, and trust between the two levels of government has declined. As Balogun (1983:80) rightly observes, ”With the advent of politics and representative government, the bureaucracy had to undergo some changes. The first major problem accompanying the introduction of ‘cabinet’ government in Nigeria was that of the place of administration vis-à-vis politics. The relationship between the political class and the career official was not made any easier by the differences in orientations of the two leadership groups: whereas civil servants, by training, tended to define rationality from purely administrative angle, politicians were out to introduce political considerations.”
Other elements of crucial importance are the continuing era of expenditure restraint combined with increasing demands from the public for more programmes and services. In this context, innovation is seen as particularly important, where public servants are asked to find less expensive solutions to policy issues as well as more efficient and effective means of delivering programmes. This may well be the context where the lack of innovation is particularly frustrating for both politicians and senior public leaders.
Further factors constituting major impediments to innovation and risk-taking in the public service relate to capacity issues, lack of training, and a proliferation of rules. Additionally, the fear of being punished for mistakes and the lack of understanding on how to reconcile entrepreneurship with democratic responsibility are significant factors. Obviously, some of these issues will be easier to approach than others, but both sides of the equation will have to be resolved if innovation and risk taking are to be enhanced in a significant way in the public service.
Lastly, environmental factors that undermine creativity include: internal strife, conservatism, rigidity to regulations, and formal management structures within organisations. This dimension is seen as working against autonomy and tends to have a negative impact as individuals may perceive a more controlling environment as a hindrance to innovative and creative ideas.

In spite of the foregoing hindrances to innovation there exist enhancing factors. Whether innovation or risk-taking, it is assumed that these occur in a systemic context and are both internally and externally driven.
Internal Drivers
Some of the internal drivers are: organsational strategy, organisational climate, strategic leadership, entrepreneurship, and the organisation’s intangible resources.
Organsational Strategy represents one of the most important drivers of successful innovation, especially in the public sector, as it facilitates communication among the employees by virtue of its integrative role and the consistency that it offers (Zduncyk and Blenkinsopp 2007). This is only possible when the management of public sectors craft strategy that is well integrated and aligned with the critical resources of the organisation. In addition, management has to decide how to use relevant technology and drive performance improvements through the use of appropriate performance indicators.
Organisational Climate refers to the feelings, attitudes and behavioural tendencies, which characterise organisational life and may be operationally measured through the perception of its membership. Hence, members of the organisation should promote a climate in which workers are recognised for their efforts towards innovation.
Strategic Leadership dimensions that have been found to be related to the innovation strategy possess such qualities as: divergent thinking, critical thinking, technological skills, problem solving, analytical skills, strategic thinking and numerical abilities (Pagon et al. 2008). Organisations that are innovative always go for radical change to improve their performance; hence they tend to use strategic leadership to achieve both innovative direction and innovative potential.
Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial innovation is the process by which employees activate new ideas in their organisations (Christensen 2005). Successful entrepreneurship requires a combination of psychological, interpersonal and technical skills. Psychological skills refer to the mindset and mental skills necessary for successful entrepreneurship. These essential mental skills include passion, commitment, confidence, self- awareness, willingness to learn, an action orientation, psychological resilience, and tolerance of uncertainty. Interpersonal skills refer to those skills that revolve around managing key relationships and relationship-based settings vital to new venture success (Antoncic and Hisrich 2007). Essential interpersonal skills include negotiation skills, team skills, influencing decision makers and general communication skills (Oke 2002; Martins and Terblanche 2003). Technical skills include areas such as concept development, strategic planning, economic evaluation, risk management, intellectual property management and resourcing.

The Organisation’s Intangible Resources include the workforce, depth of expertise and breadth of experience, skills and knowledge of employees, as well as expertise in certain fields that are important to the success of the enterprise. However, the real issue is not the skills and knowledge per se, but how these intangible resources are managed by means of effective rewards systems, autonomy, and opportunities for further development. If organisations wish to benefit from invisible knowledge, such knowledge must be elicited, shared and codified into explicit knowledge (Fehr 2009). Similarly, human capital, which encompasses the skills, creativity and experience of individuals, is the most valuable resource for innovation and therefore organisations should invest in human capital by improving education, training and learning opportunities as well as developing the innovation skills of their workforce.
External Drivers
The organisation influences the external environment through innovations or added value for its stakeholders. Conversely, the organisation is influenced by the external environment as the organisation creates new knowledge and information out of its analyses of the environment (Merx-Chermin and Nijhof 2005: 139). It should be noted, however, that the forces in the external environment are so dynamic and interactive that the impact of any single element cannot be wholly dissociated from the impact of other elements. The leaders should therefore analyse the factors with the aim to establish how those factors affect innovation activities in the public sector organisations.
Political Environment: Innovation is driven by the desire to keep up with public needs and expectations such as the provision of welfare services, efficiency, cost cutting in the service provisions and accountability to the general public and government.  For instance, Treasury Single Account (TSA) is a financial policy implemented by the federal government of Nigeria on September 15, 2015, to consolidate all inflows from the country’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by way of deposit into commercial banks, traceable into a single account at the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Treasury Single Account policy was established in order to reduce the proliferation of bank accounts operated by MDAs and to promote financial accountability among governmental organs.
Economic Environment: To be competitive in the global market, organisations must not only strive for developing innovative and high-quality products and services, but must also deliver them on time and at a lower cost than their competitors. It is argued that without innovation, public services costs tend to rise faster than the rest of the economy. In addition, without innovation the inevitable pressures to contain costs can only be met by forcing already stretched staff to work harder (Mulgan and Albury 2003). The lesson to be learnt is that innovation and technology are also needed to transform countries from over reliance on the exploitation of natural resources to technological innovation as the basis for development.
Social Environment: Social factors should be perceived as those factors which are external to the organisation, hence there is very little that organisations can do to influence them significantly. Social factors have been known to exert enormous pressure particularly on service provisions in developed and developing economies.
Therefore, in order to respond to these pressures, senior leaders should look for innovative means through effective and efficient public sector interventions to contain such demands from the general public.
Technological  Environment: With an ever-increasing rate of technological changes, the public sector is hard pressed to keep up. While technology and automation can reduce costs and open the door for innovations, they can also change the demand for services and products. For example, in many countries, current demand for online services provided by government bodies to the general public has revolutionised the levels of products and services on offer.
Ecological Environment: Today, the ecology is badgered by the impact of harmful human activities (Pearce and Robinson 2003: 62). The results of these activities are global warming, loss of habitat and biodiversity, as well as clean air, water and land. To overcome these challenges, leaders must adopt innovation as a way to protect the ecosystem. This can be accomplished through the innovative design of public goods and services that are eco-friendly; policy and/or legislation alone cannot be the panacea to protect the ecology.
Legal Environment: Public sector organisations are founded through legislation, therefore their operations are prescribed by what is known as a “mandate.” By its very nature, the mandate imposes a degree of constraint on innovation. Porter and Stern (2002) state that innovation activities of organisations within a country are strongly influenced by national policy and the presence and vitality of public institutions. In order to achieve an innovation-driven economy, particularly in developing countries, the objective of industrial policy generation should be an accelerated pace of competitive and sustainable industrial growth within a functional framework. It means thus that the best form of governmental facilitation in any industrial policy measure is to dismantle, reduce and minimise potential barriers, obstacles and restrictions.
Collaboration and Linkages: Innovation rarely occurs in isolation; it is a highly interactive process of collaboration across a growing and diverse network of stakeholders, institutions and users. Innovative activities involve many actors and stem from a combination of commentary, specialized competencies and knowledge of various actors. These combinations and linkages of different actors are needed by public service in order to develop innovative ventures and remain competitive.
At this juncture, it is necessary to state that existence of internal and external environments (with the factors and dynamic events that constitute the environment) is not a source of innovation as usually accepted. Rather, it is the human beings who are the sources of innovation. That is, innovation cannot be initiated and pushed on by factors or events inside or outside the workplace unless those events or factors have been evaluated by the human individual or set of individuals.
In order to avoid a trial-and-error innovation approach, the potential initiator should be familiar with different types of innovation, the processes of innovation and problems of innovative behaviour. Types of innovation include the revolutionary, evolutionary, programmed, non-programmed instrumental and ultimate. The processes of innovation are dynamic because innovators perceive the work environment as dynamic. However, problems may occur at any stage in the process. These problems have to do with how the potential innovator perceives and assesses his/her personality in the context of work climate factors and whether the outcome of his /her innovative efforts will be punishing or rewarding.
At this point it should be stressed that creative and innovation leadership is rather complex and in order to surmount the complexity, one of the approaches available to a leader is to strive for and to strike a delicate balance between two conflicting roles. A balance in terms of approach needs to be struck not only within the leader and his or her behaviours, but between conflicting interests of other parties involved as well.
In a healthy work environment, leadership is distributive such that despite the presence of a formal leader, a work situation member who has a useful innovative idea to offer is for that occasion looked upon as the leader while the formal leader becomes a follower in effect. The balance between formal leadership and followership deserves attention not only by the manager/professional but also by any others who may have innovative ideas. Followership is important because subordinates who are not involved in decisions affecting innovation may find ways of contributing to the failure of creative ideas, especially during the implementation process.

The role of formal leaders should however not be underplayed by the need to involve subordinates. This is because more often than not, it is when an individual member with innovative ideas receives the encouragement of formal leaders that their innovation(s) can get through. The effect of leadership in this respect has been experimentally demonstrated by Litwin and Stringer (1968). The researchers reveal that while those who work under a democratic approach experience motivation, those under more repressive regimes do not. In terms of productivity, autocracy and Theory X leadership approach could yield more than, or as much as, democracy. However, autocracy indicates that subordinates may have to wait for directives on what behaviour to follow. Under an autocratic leader, creativity, if manifested, is used to avoid unpleasantness.
On the other hand, creative behaviour under democracy is left to the individual subordinate and, when manifested, would receive democratic consideration of the leader and co-workers. In such circumstances, leadership needs not be subverted by subordinates. Under compliance-coercive leadership, subversion may occur and thwart mechanism by forced subordinates. Coerciveness may succeed only as long as the coercive leader’s presence is continued in the social interaction situation.
Hence, leaders should be aware of other approaches which are usually paradoxical in nature (Hunter etal. 2011) but are associated with creativity and innovation. Some of the paradoxes are captured as follows:
The Creative Personality Cohesion Paradox: This approach illustrates the difficulty leaders have in providing their employees with the autonomy they need in order to be creative while at the same time fostering team cohesion (or closeness) in order to facilitate idea sharing between employees. Leaders must be careful not to encourage too much cohesion, as it may discourage group members from disagreeing (even constructively disagreeing) with fellow group members in an effort not to offend them or “rock the boat”.
The Vision Autonomy Paradox: This approach highlights the dilemma a leader faces between providing structure and guidance to a team with respect to the vision of the goal, while at the same time stepping back and providing the team with enough autonomy, especially considering the fact that creative workers highly value autonomy. When leading for innovation, providing an overabundance of structure may result in a backlash from employees who feel their autonomy is being taken away from them.
The Restriction Freedom Paradox: This approach underscores that leaders with creative minds will allow employees enough time to develop creative ventures and provide the resources to do so. At the same time leaders must take care to provide enough pressure that employees are still motivated to complete the task and not provide so many resources that this has a “deadening effect” on creativity.
The Intrinsic Extrinsic Paradox: This approach holds that instead of providing more readily available extrinsic motivation tools such as bonuses, salary increases, holidays, etcetera, leaders must provide intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation generally comes from within the employee. This paradox is based on findings that intrinsic motivation is a key factor in facilitating creativity and extrinsic motivators may either hinder creativity or have an unclear relationship with creativity.
The Local Long-Term Paradox: This approach posits that leaders of innovation must maintain their innovative edge by keeping an eye out for and capitalizing on potential opportunities, even at the risk of placing those ideas above or even eliminating ideas that s/he has previously inspired in the teams. The leader must also be capable of developing teams that are flexible enough to be passionate about ideas that may have replaced their own idea that has facilitated, inspired, and supported by their leader. This is where the paradox is most clearly visible.
The Competition Collaboration Paradox: This approach involves a leader developing open external relationships with other organisations in order to discover potential creative and innovative opportunities while at the same time ensuring that the organisation’s emerging ideas are protected in a competitive environment.
The Feedback Rigidity Paradox: This approach involves leaders seeking out and utilizing customer and client advice and feedback towards innovative endeavors to a certain extent, while taking care to be in control of the vision and not allowing themselves to be dictated by the feedback. As is often the case, some innovations are criticized by clients and customers early on.
The Failure Success Paradox is the idea that innovation leaders must ensure a safe organisational culture that is willing to embrace risk and failure, while at the same time making sure that the organisation is also producing successful products and services despite embracing risk and errors.
Creativity is a process that leads to change; therefore, it is important for leaders who want to bring about change in organisations to be skilled in facilitating it.
In his prediction several years back, Peter Drucker noted that: ‘‘the next twenty or thirty years will be very different. The need for social innovation may be even greater, but it will very largely have to be social innovation within existing public service institutions. To build entrepreneurial management into the existing public service institutions may thus be the foremost political task of this generation.” No doubt, the prediction of Drucker is about the need that would be identified for, and the difficulties that would be engendered by, introducing greater entrepreneurship and innovation into the public sector. The explanation is that, innovation is not new to government but what is new is the requirement that individual public servants take an innovative approach to their work. That is, public service the world over is a reflection of qualitative and capable senior leaders who fashion out the reform agenda and lead their staff and organisations in an effective and efficient change management process. Hence, good leadership is a prerequisite for efficiency and effectiveness in the execution of government policies and programmes.
Perhaps the logic of good leadership is premised on the assumption of the balance between risk‐taking, maintaining the status quo and facilitating innovation and creativity in the public service. Hence, the need for innovative enterprise in public service has resulted in a new focus on the role of leadership in shaping the nature and success of creative efforts. Without leadership, organisations (including public service) are likely to struggle. Little wonder thus this new call for innovation in public service represents the paradigm shift. That is, shift from the traditional view of organisational practices, which discourages employee innovative behaviours, to the view of valuing innovative thinking as a potentially powerful influence on performance.
At this juncture, it is important to state that for innovation leadership to occur and be successful in the public service, certain elements are also needed. The elements include: creative work, a creative workforce, and leadership attributes. However, the scope of this article is on the latter. To start with, for successful innovation to occur, a leader in the public service must possess certain attributes. These attributes include, but are not limited to:
  • expertise in the rudiments of the public service domainsuch as clear understanding of vision, mission, objectives and core values;
  • exhibition of innovative and creative ideas;
  • ability to carry out transformational leadership behaviours;
  • possession of managerial expertise;
  • exhibition of social skills.
  • willingness to provide a climate for idea generation; and
  • possession of quality leadership to ensure that the process of idea generation does not overshadow the evaluation and implementation processes.
From the foregoing, it is no exaggeration to state that leadership offers a distinct mind set and skill set, each well matched with contexts that necessitate utilizing diversity, possessing a high tolerance for ambiguity, and having the ability to initiate and manage change. When discussing methods to effectively teach leadership theory, Zacko- Smith (2010) outlines the three Ts including: Transformational, Transactional and Transcendent leadership. While Transformational leadership (Burns, 1978), makes leadership more relational, with service above self, transactional leadership is about the individual. Transcendent leadership is about the leaders and constituent’s relationship with the larger community and world. For example, the behavioural theory of leadership can be seen as falling under transformational leadership, because it stresses the impact of the relationship between leader and constituents. Transformational leadership, is more deeply interactive, and is intended to produce results that are about both personal and skill development. It should be stressed that for leadership to be creative there must be support for ideas, the will to discard other ideas and the ability to put supported ideas into practice. It should also be stated that the role of the leader must shift away from a transformational style to a more transactional style of leadership, which involves being more direct and critical toward the ideas generated. In other words, all leaders must ensure that constructive discussions of innovative ideas are taking place among their subordinates. This serves to evaluate the usefulness of each idea, eliminate those that do not appear viable to the set goal, and push the ones that do appear viable into practice. Leaders need to adopt closed leadership behaviours by shifting the focus away from generating new ideas toward fine-tuning existing ideas in the interest of achieving progress toward the goal at hand.
Depending upon the type of leadership style that is adopted by the innovation leader, the leader may have either a direct or indirect influence on the employees. Direct forms of influence in leading innovation include:
  • providing creative input and idea suggestion to employees;
  • providing employees with clear and concrete goals; and
  • allocating organisational resources (i.e. research and development spending and manpower) for implementing ideas.
Indirect influences get the same results without providing explicit guidance to employees. These types of influences include:
  • establishing a supportive climate for creativity within the organisation;
  • acting as a role model for innovative thinking;
  • providing employees with rewards and recognition for innovative thinking; and
  • hiring and team composition (i.e. putting together teams with specific skill sets needed for innovative thinking, or hiring employees with creative personalities without planning what they work on). 


Leadership performance today is founded on the ability to solve complex problems for which there are no immediate and easy solutions. In the face of such novel, emerging and wicked problems (Shalley, and Gilson, 2004)), the senior leaders in the public service must be effective at coming up with breakthrough solutions.
Leadership scholars such as Mumford and his colleagues opine that, “creative problem solving may indeed represent an important influence on leader performance. We live in complex times, and in the near term this complexity is likely to do nothing but grow”. In order to sustain success during such times, it is suggested that the senior leaders in the public service need to be creative and to tap into the creativity of others.
This is not to say that there are no challenges. The challenge is not whether the much needed creativity skills for leadership success in the 21st century can be developed, but the challenge appears to be where individuals can go to systematically and deliberately develop these much-needed skills. And here, we would argue, is where we need educational, business and political leaders to come forward to compel educational institutions, primarily, but other organisations as well, to focus greater attention on promoting creative-thinking skills.
In conclusion therefore, innovation and risk taking are only two aspects of a major cultural change for the public service, influenced by the paradigm shift from bureaucratic functioning and control to a focus on quality, service and results. The challenge is enormous. To respond to this challenge, the public service must become a borderless institution. This does not mean it has organisations without structure, without legislative frameworks, or without accountability. Rather, it is an institution committed to reducing the barriers to the flow of ideas and information within and among public sector organisations. There is no choice about accepting this challenge because global competitiveness demands that the public service evolve, become more entrepreneurial and creative. It stands to reason to conclude that preparing the organisation for creating a culture of innovation the role of leadership cannot be over emphasized.

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