24 January 2007

Leadership and Social Innovation

Leadership suggests two things. One, you are going someplace new. Two, you have followers. By definition, leaders can't look to their followers for a destination and yet that seems to be just what politicians have been doing of late.

W. Edwards Deming said, "No customer ever asked for the telephone or bicycle or computer."

Reliance on focus groups and polling numbers will never substitute for real leadership, for the kind of innovation that offers solutions. Great leaders are invariably adept at one of two things: either they are social innovators or know how to popularize social innovations. FDR's New Deal, Gandhi's non-violent protests, and Teddy Roosevelt's conservation programs were all innovations and represented leadership at its best.

The 2008 presidential race has already begun. I'm looking for a leader who will champion or generate social innovations.


David said...

Good column. I'm looking also and at this point it's a matter of identifying potential. Hillary has not proven she has any but perhaps B. Obama can get there. How will we measure?

Ron Davison said...

I think that the simplest measure will be in proposals. Does the candidate propose matching our values (whether that be by increased budget on health care or defense or what have you?) or does she / he propose something truly innovative, akin to the creation of the CIA or the TVA or public education?