13 Traits of an Innovative Leader

Innovative Leader

Being an effective leader requires you to say “no”, and to avoid jumping at every new opportunity or trend without proper analysis and validation.               

Trae Tessmann|
February 28, 2016

Innovative leaders like Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick, and Jeff Bezos are always in the spotlight.

They’ve disrupted markets, raised huge sums of cash, and created loyal followers of their vision.
But even if you don’t run a billion-dollar enterprise, you can be an innovative leader that doesn’t just change things, but changes them for the better and motivates others to do the same.

Whether you’re an HR professional looking for new ways to improve culture or a Sales Manager seeking a better way to connect with customers, there are a few traits that stand synonymous with innovative thinkers and leaders within an organization.


  • Innovative leaders play by the rules, but know that you can’t really improve without shaking a few things up and taking some risks. They’re willing to take action on the ideas within their organization, and stand strong as they are examined, implemented, launched, and improved, whether they succeed or fail.


  • The most effective leaders in history weren’t micromanagers. They had faith in their employees to get the job done, come up with new ideas, and work together to move the organization or company forward in the most effective way possible.


  • You’ll never see a great leader shift their shortcomings onto their team members, but you will see them hold the correct parties accountable for successes and failures as they see fit. Still, those leaders know that results don’t just stem from individuals, but teams as well.


  • You center your energy and the company’s goals and your responsibilities to reach them. You don’t ignore small problems, but move swiftly to solve them to insure both you and your team can remain focused on what really matters.


  • Innovation is all about fresh ideas, but not every idea is worth pursuing, regardless of who it comes from. Being an effective leader requires you to say “no”, and to avoid jumping at every new opportunity or trend without proper analysis and validation.


  • Leaders with a strong focus on innovation know that you don’t get anything done if you’re always sitting still, contemplating your next move. As we just said, don’t jump at every opportunity, but stand by your decisions and put them to work.

You might be an innovator, but is your Company ready to Innovate?



  • Employees don’t respond well to a manager that doesn’t give it their all, especially when their jobs are on the line. Instilling a truly innovative mindset in your organization requires determination to not just “try” new things but to make them work too.


  • Innovative leaders and employees are always ready to ask questions and eager for new knowledge. They’re pro-growth for their organization, the development of their workforce, and the advancement of their careers.


  • Great leaders also look at themselves to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. They don’t want personal processes to be the problem. It can be tough to take a hard look at yourself so they don’t hesitate to ask someone else what they can be doing better.


  • Not every new initiative or idea will work out of the gate or stay consistent, so great leaders learn to wear a personality that reacts well to change. Dynamic events and people, like employees, suppliers, customers can be unpredictable too so it’s necessary to stay patient.


  • Innovation requires persevere through challenges, and to see them as opportunities for improvement. Negativity on your behalf is magnified through your employees. The mood doesn’t have to always be happy, but there needs to be a light at the end of every tunnel.


  • When it all goes well, every great leader celebrates to help boost morale, but keeps realistic expectations for the next battle. You don’t forget the employees that you depended on during the journey or underestimate the challenges you’re going up against next.


  • Still, most leaders that have earned the title of “innovative” are well aware of it. They leverage past successes to get more people on board with their ideas, empower others to have confidence in their own ideas, and continue to make waves without the paralyzing fear that they may fail.

What do YOU think makes an Innovative Leader?

Let us know below!

About Trae Tessmann

Co-founder of Ideawake

One thought on “13 Traits of an Innovative Leader

  • By Martha G - Reply

    Actually , looking at you Tesla and being I am a car fanatic and innovator .

    I do have a suggestion. Maybe for another model, but may help with design.. I don’t like this red one.


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