One of the areas that Innovative Thought specializes in is the area of Innovation Leadership. This is not how to be innovative and creative, but how to lead innovation within the organization. Sam Hunter is one of our special consultants and does a lot of work in this area as a professor in Psychology at Penn State and one of the competencies that Sam has identified to be a good Innovation Leader is something called “low-agreeableness.” Whenever we work with clients on developing their innovation leaders there is a bit of a “wince” at this competency because do we really want to make our people less agreeable?
Sam along with another of our special consultants Lily Cushenberry from Stony Brook, have recently published a paper looking at this challenge and it has recently gotten some pretty good press. In general terminology low-agreeableness is being a “jerk” and what Sam and Lily have found out is that this can be good sometimes, and not good at other times, when leading innovation. In many cases it is about the social context and whether the organization is open to new ideas as a culture.
We have worked with a number of clients who have had the challenge of the being seen as hard-charging, and it becomes more challenging the higher up the corporate ladder you go. One client, who was seen as “abrasive” by colleagues but seen as “can-do” by senior leadership, has had to modify his leadership behavior as he has become more senior. At the junior level, when you are an individual contributor you can push your own agenda and not worry about the collateral damage, but as a senior executive getting multiple people on board requires more emotional intelligence and the ability to demonstrate “low-agreeableness” at some moments, and look to build consensus at others. Also the idea of low-agreebleness at a senior level effects the culture of the team and in fact may reduce the openness of the team to new ideas.
It is a fascinating study and it is great to see two of our people, who are both brilliant, get the recognition they deserve!