Leadership on a Canvas: The Art of Innovation

Leadership is an art form in its own right. However, in the current context of a fast-paced corporate world where change and innovation are the cogs of success, it’s essential to paint a picture as a creative, bold leader. Transformation and change are becoming pillars for businesses to lean on, while leaders are increasingly expected to bring innovative strategies to the table.

Companies are relying on leaders to be forward thinkers who can implement ground-breaking ideas. There is an urgency and ‘need for speed’ mentality towards innovation, ensuring that a business’ idea is brought to market before their competitors. In 2012, author John P Kotter penned an article entitled ‘Accelerate’ for the Harvard Business Review, devoted to the topic of speed in business. Kotter noted that successful businesses should rethink company direction regularly – every few years at the very least. Four years on, this sentiment is as important as ever. Leaders are expected to keep up with this tremendous pace, launching and revamping structures, strategies and services with innovative operations. In the words of Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum:

“In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.”

Internationally, there are measures of innovation such as the Global Innovation Index and Global Creativity Index. In 2015, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands fronted the top three spots in the former. The latter index, compiled by the Martin Property Institute, examines the ‘three T’s’ of economic development: technology, talent and tolerance. Countries are scrutinised to identify which businesses have technological advancement and stellar staff, as well as ethnic diversity and tolerance. As per this research, Australia ranked top in the world and New Zealand won a reputable third place, surpassing Canada, Denmark and Sweden. This data showcases the tangible need for leaders in the Trans-Tasman region to continue their high standard of innovative practices to stay in these premier rankings.

If you plan to create or implement an innovative business strategy that is competitive in a global gallery, it might be fruitful to think outside the box in the spirit of true innovation. Why not seek inspiration from the great Italian Renaissance master artists?

Concetto and Ingenio

During the Italian Renaissance, art historians began to develop a language for describing the psychological processes of master painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and others in this cohort. They theorised that behind every masterpiece were two key moments – that of concetto, or the concept, and that of ingenio, the genius behind the delivery of the brushstrokes, composition, colours and style. This method is comparable to implementing innovative strategies in modern businesses because it ultimately all boils down to the concept and the delivery of it.

So, how did they do it? First of all, art is not created in a vacuum. Many of the great thinkers and artists developed and enhanced their own talents by paying close attention to what their peers were doing – entire art movements and styles have been developed in this way, with a group of like-minded artists banding together to produce an innovative new way of painting, sculpting or creating mixed-media works. This model is just as valuable in a business context. Research what your peers and competitors are doing and you’ll eventually either identify gaps in the market or spark a moment of concetto yourself and come up with a fresh, novel idea.

If you’re personally not an ideas-person, you can take advantage of leadership coaching services. This would aid you to build and manage a team of executive advisors and creative thinkers who can propel the business forward using the stream of their profitable ideas. This will become hugely important in the coming years, as millennials are set to comprise 75% of global workforces by 2025, according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey. This generation is typically renowned for its technological prowess and innovative spirit, meaning that future business leaders will need to differentiate themselves from their millennial peers by being even more savvy, strategic and speedy. As for leaders in the current climate, you’ll need to account for the palpable demand for innovation and consider adapting your leadership style accordingly. For the ingenio component, you’ll need to have experienced, expert COOs and CFOs to deliver your strategy across the whole enterprise. It’s in this context that the services of a high calibre executive search firm can prove to be invaluable.

Perhaps the greatest perk of implementing an innovative, successful strategy is the rewarding feeling of making a positive difference. The old adage ‘do a job you love, and you won’t have to work a day in your life’ has been printed and posted onto the walls of countless guidance counsellors, and yet, it is a poignant truth. Realising that your work has genuine meaning and value is perhaps the greatest motivation for your engagement and productivity, showcasing how your own concetto and ingenio – although used in a business context rather than on a canvas – is not much different to creating a masterpiece artwork.


Renisa Maki

Associate Consultant

Kerridge & Partners



Leadership on a Canvas: The Art of Innovation