Think Big and Act Bold: Words from an Innovative Leader

Steve Jobs once said “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower.”

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST Forum where the topic was innovation in healthcare. The annual event celebrates hundreds of women in the Twin Cities healthcare community, and recognizes pioneers and leaders in health innovation—both in Minnesota and around the globe.

A highlight of the evening was listening to the keynote address given by Cindy Kent, president and general manager of 3M Drug Delivery Systems. Cindy addressed the audience with her remarks on innovative leadership and categorized the attributes of an innovative leader with three words: being, thinking and doing.

SFullSizeRendero how does an innovative leader be, think and do? Cindy shared her inspirational thoughts:

[Be] Confident, authentic and accountable. Building confidence is critical when it comes to being a leader. Cindy spoke to a concept called “The Confidence Gap.” According to The Atlantic, “evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.”

Innovative leaders are authentic and accountable. Being a genuine person will let those you lead see you as more than just their boss or executive, and it will create a culture where individuals respect you as their leader, just as much as each other.

[Think] Curious, intellectual and integrative. From a young age, humans have always been curious. Our young minds are fascinated by new objects or processes, and we love to ask questions. Great leaders aren’t just curious about certain things, but about everyone. Great leaders ask smart questions, engage frequently with others and create tools to help everyone succeed.

She also touched on the use of outside-in thinking to find creative solutions. Innovative leaders have to adapt and navigate complex situations, and need to continuously have an open mind about new concepts.

[Do] Motivated, determined and courageous. Innovative leaders encourage and motivate others to do their best—and they lead by example. Cindy referenced Ben Franklin, who said “Well done is better than well said.” I believe this sums it up perfectly.

Leaders master change, which relates to an earlier point of being accountable, and aren’t necessarily fearless, but they don’t shy away from a challenge. I’m sure many of us have shied away from a challenge, because we’re afraid to fail. But, this relates back to having confidence. Note: Be confident and trust yourself.


Cindy closed with this phrase, “think big and act bold.” So I encourage all of you to do those two things, just like Cindy encouraged the more than 900 women at the Forum, and just like she encourages her team and colleagues to do every day. Think Big and Act Bold.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What attributes do you think make an innovative leader? Share in the comments below!

Thanks to @CindyRKent for a moving and thought-provoking keynote. Learn more about the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST at

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