Innovation leaders create and communicate ideas, vision and strategy, influence strategy and consequently shape organisational structure and culture (Bel 2010). They are required to be both generalists and specialists in any given field of knowledge, and should encourage leadership and innovation to become ‘dispersed’ across the entire organisations (Bel 2010: 58-59). Two leaders, former PA Consulting Human Resource (“HR”) Director and professor at London Business School, Lynda Gratton (“Gratton”), and Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (“COO”), Sheryl Sandberg (“Sandberg”), demonstrate that the link between innovative behaviour and activities, and leadership may be interpreted in a variety of ways, but that successful performance of one, often leads to the other.
As a leader in the HR consulting industry and in HR academics, Gratton has stated her views on the future of work (Gratton 2010). Most relevant to innovation leadership is her research on 5 areas that are most important to the changes organisations will face in the future; transparent and authentic leadership, high performing virtual teams, cross cultural business networks and relationships, relationships with partners, consumers and entrepreneurs, and flexible working (Gratton 2010). Innovation leadership is affected by all these factors and in conducting and promoting such research, Gratton has become an innovation leader in her own right. From a gender perspective, a successful female leader, in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, is innovation leadership in itself, as the shift in perceptions regarding female leaders will encourage the workforce to embrace new ideas and changes from the norm, thus influencing innovation (The Financial Times 2013). However, in the HR consulting industry, Gratton is not the only driver of innovation leadership, as innovation depends on other factors, such as firm size, individual leadership style and organisational culture, that impact the success of innovative behaviour and activities (Pieterse et al. 2010). Additionally, the innovation and technology industry acts as a driver of innovation leadership and leaders from that industry are well-placed to influence the way innovation and innovators are motivated.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is one such innovation leader. As a leader in her position at Facebook and in the technology industry, she has influenced a large part of its expansion and advertising strategy; Advertising being the main source of income for many technology companies, including Google (CBS Interactive 2013), where Sandberg was formerly Vice President of Sales and Operations (Swisher 2008). Sandberg’s role involved convincing Facebook employees that advertising revenue was required for growth and brainstorming an advertising strategy that worked in tandem with Facebook’s overall vision and ethos (Bloomberg L.P. 2013). Once created and implemented, the ‘Social Ad’ strategy earned the company $2 billion in sales in 2010 (Bloomberg L.P. 2013). Sandberg’s overall success has shown that leadership in the innovation and technology industry is not mutually exclusive to leadership in other industries. Her success has an impact on the wider issue of women leaders in the workforce, as she evokes a similar strength of ambition in others, women in particular, to overcome obstacles encountered in the workplace and in innovation technology industries, where, in the USA, women account for only 26% of the computing occupations workforce (National Center for Women in Information Technology 2013). However, she is not the only driver of innovation in her industry, as other leaders, inventors, and the rapid evolution of the industry itself drive the innovative capabilities of all its participants.
From the evaluation of Gratton and Sandberg’s innovation leadership in their respective industries, the link between an organisation’s innovative capabilities and leadership charisma can be seen through the degree of success the two leaders have experienced and transmitted through to their followers, industries and organisations. The implication is that if a woman in leadership utilises all her competences effectively and authentically, innovation will occur, regardless of industry, company or organisational culture, and eventually, success will deem the fact that she is a woman irrelevant (Liu and Wilson 2001).
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Bloomberg L.P. (2013) Why Facebook Needs Sheryl Sandberg [online] available from <http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_21/b4229050473695.htm#p3> [21 March 2013]
CBS Interactive (2013) Microsoft, Apple and Google: Where does the money come from? [online] available from <http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/microsoft-apple-and-google-where-does-the-money-come-from/4469> [21 March 2013]
Gratton, L. (2010), ‘Lynda Gratton Investigates: The Future of Work’, Business Strategy Review, 21(3), 16-23, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 21 March 2013.
Liu, J. And Wilson, D. (2001), ‘Developing women in a digital world’, Women in Management Review, 16(8), 405-416
National Center for Women in Information Technology (2013) By the Numbers [online] available from <http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/btn_02272013web.pdf> [21 March 2013]
Pieterse, A., van Knippenberg, D., Schippers, M. and Stam, D. (2010), ‘ Transformational and transactional leadership and innovative behavior: The moderating role of psychological empowerment’, Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 31(4), 609-623, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 March 2013.
Swisher, K. (2008) ‘Sheryl Sandberg will become new COO of Facebook’. AllThingsD.com [online] 4 March. available from <http://allthingsd.com/20080304/sheryl-sandberg-will-become-coo-of-facebook/?mod=ATD_search> [21 March 2013]
The Financial Times Ltd (2013) ‘Davies Report reaction: Lynda Gratton’ The Financial Times [online] 24 February 2011. available from <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3cfb0c24-400c-11e0-811f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2NvW6q5i6> [18 March 2013]