When considering the purpose of organization, we must not forget the circumstances that gave rise to its creation. It was society and its needs that called for the establishment of this entity we call organization. Its contemplated role: to provide what individuals couldn’t, to provide for new products and services efficiently.

This dual-purpose -innovation for new products and efficiency in performing the task of production-is an existential reason of leadership.

Though both innovation and efficiency are critically important, there are stages in an organization’s life that make one more needed than the other. See diagram below:



Neglecting either one could have serious consequences. Focusing only on innovation will in the longer term open the door to other efficiency focused companies to take away from the innovative company the gains, whereas focusing only on efficiency will deprive the company from deploying the resources necessary for innovation.

If both, during an organization’s life, are necessary, how to go about them, is a question vexing many companies. Our suggestion is depicted by the diagram: innovate first, but after, be prepared to do the task efficiently, a sequence that in the life of the company repeats itself and leads to the fulfillment of the vision and mission.

For a sustainable company it is necessary to be good at both processes. Efficiency follows a more logical path, and it is easier understood how to apply methodologies like lean and six sigma to enhance it. Innovation, on the other hand, is rather an untamed process that has no real recipes as to how to apply it. Following the doctrine that a leader makes the company, it would follow that to do both should be a prime concern of a leader.

Furthermore, since the time when either efficiency or innovation becomes prevalent, varies being contingent on when a new type of stage starts, a further critical challenge for the leader would be to know when to shift gears between the two, and how to make the company ready to play the role required by whichever of the two stages they find themselves in.

These are demanding attributes and to hold them all simultaneously, it will take for a leader to be what might be called an ambidextrous leader.

What can a leader do, or possess to be such a man? Can the answer be found in the prevailing general theory and ideas of how to be an effective leader? Or is there more to it? A kind of skillfulness, a kind of experience, or a kind of art that either you have it or not?

Panikos Sardos


About the author: Panikos Sardos is the Managing Director of P&E Sardos Business Solutions Int., a management consulting firm that offers advisory services, coaching and training. For any further information, you are welcome to communicate with us by email: or telephone: +357 99640912, or visit us at