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  • Writer's pictureAllan J. Mucerino


Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Part 1 of 2 in a series on Innovation Leadership.

Leading innovation is a hot topic in the leadership literature. Driving leadership in the traditional sense while at the same time facilitating internal innovation and creativity within the organization is contextually challenging. It requires a duality in organizational mechanisms and processes. The question is how do organizations support and promote both stability and change?  Especially in historically unstable environments like education. 

Periods of stability and periods of change define the landscape of education. Today’s leaders must exploit the environment during periods of stability and explore it during periods of change. Innovation leadership, itself a fusion of different leadership styles, influences internal innovation and creativity and is emerging as a positive approach to leading change. Gliddon’s CREATE model of innovation leadership is one example. 

When most people think of innovation leadership, education does not come to mind. We tend to think of visionary leaders like Steve Jobs, whose ability to “jolt innovation” in Apple became synonymous with his brand, making Jobs the prototype for innovation leadership. I contend that organization-wide creativity happens in education more than any industry. It flourishes in classrooms and on campuses daily as innovative teachers find creative ways to reach their students while cutting-edge leaders create structures to support and encourage the work. Yet, due to the pervasive isolationism of education as a profession, there is little sharing. The institutional model is not designed to support and encourage intrapreneurship.

It can be argued that the opposite is true: it’s designed to discourage it. Even in school districts committed to shared practices, lesson design, and other collaborative efforts to institutionalize organization-wide creativity, the system is still designed to get the results that it gets, despite the intrapreneurship that flourishes in its midst (Read Fullan’s The Elusive Nature of Whole System Improvement in Education).

Some argue institutional bullying is to blame. Others point to the absence of innovation leadership. In either case, accountability, individualism, technology, and fragmented policies continue to drive organizational behavior, while capacity building, collaboration, pedagogy, and systemic policies remain elusive as primary drivers.

Author of Good to Great to Innovate, Lyn Sharratt identified characteristics of innovation leadership in the context of education. The model extends beyond those with formal and positional authority such as superintendents and principals to thought leaders both internal and external to the organization. Among them teacher leaders, coaches, and consultants. 

It’s the responsibility of the people with positional authority to remove the barriers and unleash the power of an intrapreneurial spirit. In practice, that concept amounts to building the organizational capacity for continuous professional learning and team learning, revolving around a culture of inquiry, where teams generate creative ideas and innovation emerges.

When formal and informal leaders assume responsibility for their own growth, regardless of whether or not they are motivated by advancement, the skills and dispositions needed for continuous school improvement are possible.


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