Innovation is often misconceived as a only playground for the young and daring, yet the most successful and sustainable innovations tell a different story. It is a strategic endeavour that is more successful under the leadership of experienced executives, closely aligned with the vision and direction set by those at the top of an organisation. The reason behind this is simple: innovation is not just about novel ideas but about transforming these ideas into tangible outcomes that drive growth and ensure long-term sustainability.

The critical role of leadership in innovation cannot be overstated. Leaders, especially those close to the CEO or at the executive level, possess a comprehensive understanding of their company’s strategic objectives, market dynamics, and organisational capabilities. This positions them to align innovation efforts with the company’s long-term goals, ensuring that innovation is not just a one-off project but a strategic pillar that contributes to the company’s success.

For instance, Jeff Bezos at Amazon and Satya Nadella at Microsoft have both demonstrated how executive-led innovation can propel companies to new heights. Their direct involvement in fostering a culture of innovation has been instrumental in their companies’ ability to consistently innovate and remain leaders in their respective industries.

Executives have the authority and resources to make strategic decisions, allocate budgets, and mobilise cross-functional teams towards innovation goals. This level of control and influence is crucial for overcoming the inevitable challenges and roadblocks that arise in the innovation process.

In addition, seasoned leaders bring a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the risks involved in innovation. They are better equipped to make informed decisions, balancing the need for innovation with the company’s risk tolerance. This experience also allows them to mentor and guide their teams through the complexities of the innovation process, building a disciplined approach to innovation that can be replicated and scaled across the organisation.

While the enthusiasm and fresh perspectives of junior employees are very valuable, the successful implementation of innovation initiatives requires the guidance, strategic insight, and decision-making capabilities of experienced executives. By placing the responsibility for innovation close to the CEO, companies can ensure that their innovation efforts are aligned with their strategic goals, adequately resourced, and managed with the discipline needed to achieve sustainable growth and success. This is where innovation coaching for executives plays a vital role, equipping leaders with the skills and disciplines necessary to lead their organisations through the challenges of innovation.