Is Your Leadership Failing Your Team?


By Delaney Tosh

In my coaching business I have been having a lot of conversations with businesses, teams and their leaders, about engagement, disengagement and the link between team culture and a company’s or team’s ability to be innovative…or just productive. Top of mind is the competitive business environment and how a team can be not just responsive, but out-pace competitive pressures in the marketplace.

The extensive research on the topic of innovation all indicates that while there are several key factors that enhance innovation, it all begins with leadership. Leaders either inhibit or enhance all the other factors that are the hallmarks of highly productive and innovative teams.

Innovation is not an accident or only the purview of wacky creative types. Innovation is a disciplined approach and requires leadership that can manage and allow for the ingredients that make innovation possible. Here are three key areas to explore to see if your leadership is on the right track:Diversity:

Are you, as a leader, able to manage the diversity required for the necessary creative tension that this diversity will ignite? Many leaders look for talent who have similar world views to their own. While you all may feel comfortable sitting around the boardroom table, the similar ways of thinking and approaches will ensure a lot of the same-old-same-old.

Hiring a diverse team is not enough, however, as this diversity needs to be effectively managed so that tolerance of differences is nurtured and tension is given enough rein to allow creativity to spark, but not so much that everyone hates each other. This requires clear communication of the rules of engagement, rigorous facilitation of team acceptance of individual differences, an understanding of why this is important, and an even balance between a hands-on and hands-off approach.


Are you able to handle a bit of failure? What about new ideas – how open are you to these…especially those ideas that are so outside your way of seeing things your first instinct is to scoff? Teresa Amabile and Mukti Khaire discovered in their research of leading creativity scholars and executives from companies such as IDEO, Google, Intuit, Novartis and E Ink, that it is imperative that managers decrease their fear of failure and instead have the goal of experimenting constantly. Fail early and often and learn from each failure is the resounding consensus of both the scholars and executives.

Letting Others Be Leaders:

Can you let go of the reins? Are you able to let employees run with an idea and bring others on side, or create an initiative and see it through? Autonomy is a critical factor to an employee’s sense of worth and this really fosters individual creativity. Are you attached to finding glory in being the one with all the answers, or does your sense of glory come from helping others realize their unique talents towards a common goal?

According to Jeff Mauzy and Richard Harriman, in their book, Creativity Inc., leadership that does not support employees’ creativity is characterized by:

  • a strict adherence to procedure,
  • low tolerance for autonomy,
  • over-reliance on past strategies and successes,
  • imitating the competition,
  • lack of acknowledgement for personal merit,
  • quick dismissal of ideas that don’t fit the mold, and
  • failure to allow for and acknowledge small wins with individual employees.

As Amabile and Khaire discovered in their research cited in their article, Creativity and the Role of the Leader, “One doesn’t manage creativity. One manages for creativity”. In doing so, you will go a long way to enhancing the culture and productivity of your team.


D_Tosh_cropped_high res C (2)Contributing Member: Delaney Tosh, CPCC

Delaney approaches business management, leadership and organizational development from a coaching perspective. She is a trained business coach and facilitator with 15 years experience in management, business development and team development. Delaney is a systems thinker who is strong in facilitating dynamic conversations that assess the current reality and inspire and support a shift to a desired future. To explore coaching with Delaney, visit her website.

This post originally appeared on Delaney Tosh’s Surge Strategies blog and on the Delta Partners Inc. blog and appears here with her permission.