An enabling leadership style is needed

Spread and adoption - leadershipAn ‘enabling leadership’ style which facilitates interactions between key people that transforms relationships leading to collective action is needed to enable the spread and adoption of complex innovations

An enabling leadership style requires a mindset shift such that ‘my role is to think about how I can facilitate and enable adaptation, emergence and change’, rather than directing people what to do. This includes knowing when and where to bring people together in an adaptive space.

Leaders need to maximise connections within and across the system and boundaries and deal creatively with increasing complexity, uncertainty, diversity, and polarities in a complex adaptive system. See complexity principle for more information.

Leaders need to develop:

  • a growth and outward mindset focused on collaboration across a bigger system united by a shared purpose, rather than an inward mindset focused on their own group or organisation
  • complex and sophisticated ways of thinking gained through exposure to new ways of thinking, stretch experiences and strong developmental networks.

Leaders should strive to create the environment and relationships for innovation development, spread and adoption seeking and sharing learning with others creating a learning system

Get the key people together in a ‘safe’ adaptive space and in a facilitated way to enable formation and development of relationships, trust and agreement on a shared purpose and collective action on spread and adoption

Innovation spread across the system needs to be strategically coordinated, with support from key stakeholders. Strategically coordinate spread of innovations across the system to maximise benefit and avoid duplication or distraction of effort. Acknowledge the complexity of the task.

Support the ongoing development of relationships and seek continued active support from key stakeholders which may take many forms.

Co-create spread and adoption plans with service users, carers and local people. Utilise peer leadership to include the voice of people with lived experience.

Provide a local, deep understanding of innovation development, spread and quality improvement to enable spread and adoption of sustainable improvements.

More details on Leadership in the Leading and Connecting across systems in further resources.

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Applying this principle to practice

Consider these questions which will be of varying relevance depending on your context.

  • How will leaders be supported to develop an enabling leadership style?
  • How will leaders develop a growth and outward focused mindset?
  • How well do leaders understand the challenges of working with complexity and how to respond?
  • How will you create a context that is receptive to innovation development, adoption and spread?
  • How and when do you need to create an adaptive space? And who needs to be included?
  • How will you create a shared purpose?
  • Who are the key stakeholders and what are the key relationships?
  • What needs to happen to build and maintain these key relationships?
  • How do you embed a habit of learning so that seeking, reflecting and sharing knowledge is routine?
  • What is the strategic plan for spread and adoption?
  • What expertise, in innovation development, spread and adoption and quality improvement, is available?

You may find the following helpful, also see practical tools and methods, further resources and systems convening

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This guidance is primarily offered to support system leaders. Please send all feedback here.