We think it is being an ambidextrous thinker, being able to think critically (which we CPAs do very well) and creatively. That is what I take away when reading this Harvard Business Review article, “How Do Innovators Think?” (Thanks to friend and colleague Jeannie Patton with the AICPA.)

The article is based on research into the “innovator's DNA” and was based on interviews with some of the top innovators in the market today — Jeff Bezos at Amazon, A.G. Lafley at P&G, Steve Jobs at Apple, Margaret Whitman and Pierre Omidyar at Ebay.

Here are the top five skills of innovative leaders:

  1. Associating — the ability to make connections across.
  2. Questioning — the ability to ask “What if,” “Why” and “Why not.”
  3. The ability to closely observe details, especially people's behavior.
  4. Experimenting — the willingness to try new experiences and ideas.
  5. Social networking beyond your profession — a curiosity and ability to learn from multiple social networks outside your primary discipline.

Read the full article.

We see a lot of similarities with our own research on leadership skills from our Business Learning Institute. Here is what we see as the top five qualities of extraordinary leaders:

  1. Sight — the ability to see emerging patterns and shift perspective when necessary.
  2. Insight — the ability to learn faster than the rate of change in your industry.
  3. Create — the ability to think strategically and critically to gain insights that create new opportunities.
  4. Communicate — the ability to collaborate inside and outside your organization and to build and sustain social networks of people engaged in the work.
  5. Inspire –- the ability to mobilize support and engage others to join you in action.

We have turned this into a leadership development program called i2a: Insights to Action: A Strategic Thinking System, which is also the basis for our i2a: Leadership Academy. Applications are now available for the MACPA's Leadership Academy on May 7-9. 2012. Get details and applications here.

Tell us what you think. Can leadership be taught?

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