Laura Flessner has worked at companies with such household names as Proctor & Gamble and Pfizer. It was at Pfizer that she parlayed her product and research experience into creating an innovation center for the entire company. She later mined her own hard-fought path to leadership to start her own company, Mindtap. And now she provides coaching to “non-typical leaders” in the areas of leadership and innovation.
“[Innovation and leadership] go hand in hand,” she says. “For me, the term is ‘innovative leadership.’ Just like ‘servant leadership’ has a name, I call this ‘innovative leadership,’ because both of these things require a vision. Something of being able to make something better, something that you’re moving people toward. Both of these things require resilience because you’re overcoming obstacles or helping to remove obstacles to be able to move forward. Both of these things require taking risks and having fear and bravery to step out into something new.”
And what, exactly, does she mean by these two terms? “Innovation is really just about making things better. And so that process is something that anyone can grab a hold of. And once you understand that what you’re doing is innovation, once you are able to adopt thinking of yourself as an innovator, then you can use really powerful tools of innovation that are proven to really help make you so much more impactful of driving and making change.
“Leadership is about the ability to move people to make things happen. Now that can fit the traditional sense of a leader, but it could also fit you and me and anybody. Because it doesn't rely on a title, and it doesn’t rely on a position. It really is about indirect influence and being able to connect with people. To be able to make things happen, create that vision that you see as an innovator and be able to bring everyone together to make that vision come to life.”
Laura works with clients to help them break out of their comfort zones and find their power for innovative leadership. Find more of her insights on how this all works — plus get access to a free mini-training for TIPM listeners — on this episode of This Is Product Management.