Innovative Leader’s Guide to Transforming Organizations

International Book Award Winner

2013 International Book Awards: Winner Best Business Reference Book

According to Carla Paonessa, Accenture Managing Partner, Retired, “This guide is designed to organize the chaos that accompanies transformative and systemic change. Metcalf delineates the process into seven categories that are straightforward to follow. She gives templates to help group the work. She offers examples and tells stories of how this method has worked. More importantly, she illustrates and integrates the leader’s personal “inside” work with the “outside” work of the organization. We meet Paul, an executive. He takes his organization through transformative change and is privy to Paul’s conversations with himself as he applies what he has learned about himself and what he learns about his organization: What do I do? What do I believe? How do we do this?”

Listen to 5-minute interviews  Part 1 and Part 2 with Maureen Metcalf aired on Public Radio, Craft the Show discussing the book. Also, listen to 1-hour podcast with Jay Izzo and Maureen Metcalf.

Leading change starts with leadership, and yet in many organizations, the process of leading change often omits the idea that transforming leaders are part of the overall transformation process. This book starts with an approach to leadership that we call innovative leadership. Then, it is a comprehensive model defining the five critical elements required to successfully address adaptive challenges and transform organizations to solve these challenges.

Innovative Leadership FrameworkLeveraging the focus of critical researchers and our change implementation experience, we focus on building innovative leadership as the foundation for transforming organizations. We define innovative leadership as the ability to influence by engaging equally across the four key dimensions: intention, behavior, culture, and systems. Participants develop this ability by addressing the five elements in the image to the left.

Because innovative leadership influences by engaging the four dimensions equally, innovative leaders are uniquely qualified to implement adaptive change with a much higher success rate. Conversely, a primary reason for transformation failure is that leaders focus primarily on the systems rather than the larger context that includes themselves as leaders and the organizational culture.

Section I of this Guide focuses on individual leadership to help you understand what innovative leadership is and how you can apply it to transform your organization. We explore each of the five elements in detail and give examples of how you, as an innovative leader, can use these elements in your transformation effort.

Section II of this Guide focuses on the process of leading transformative change to address highly complex organizational challenges. This section puts innovative leadership to work by building on what we learned in Section I. It provides a change model and gives an example of how an innovative leader implements transformative change. It provides a change model and practical tools and steps that you can use to lead change.


Transforming organizations is the work of innovative leaders, leading a skilled team of people to accomplish a goal that will become more finely tuned during the implementation process. To add to the complexity, these projects are more successful when implemented outside of the corporate hierarchy using networks of people and interdependent projects. This book aims to give you—as an innovative leader—a high-level understanding of the change process and how to lead change; not to teach you the nuts and bolts of how to manage the project or the change effort as part of the project team.


By combining innovative leadership with a comprehensive change model where the leader equally considers the four dimensions, transformation initiatives will have a higher success rate because this new model accomplishes the following:

  • Addresses adaptive problems by analyzing them and developing comprehensive solutions beyond those found in traditional problem-solving approaches;
  • Addresses the four dimensions: a leader’s intention and behavior along with the organization’s culture and systems in a systematic manner that creates alignment between them;
  • Includes the innovative leader in the change process: expecting the leader to innovate how they lead to keep pace with the challenges they are solving.

During this era of increased complexity, an accelerated need for change, and failed change initiatives, it is critical for organizations to identify new models that address these challenges while concurrently maintaining efficient and effective operations and have a higher likelihood of yielding successful and sustained change.

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