Author(s): Musawenkosi Ngibe, Lawrence M. Lekhanya,
Manufacturing SMEs are confronted with various difficulties, which fundamentally influence their authority and development, as a result, they stop to exist for a drawn out stretch of time. These difficulties and challenges immensely affect the innovation, leadership and sustainable growth of manufacturing SMEs as the failure rate of SMEs in South Africa is 63% to 75% in the first two years of trading. The critical factors identified in this study that halt business innovation, growth and sustainability include amongst others innovative leadership education and skills training, technology adoption, competition barriers, social factors, and the ever-changing business environment. A quantitative research method was used to understand and determine the critical factors that affect innovative leadership in obtaining innovation and sustainable growth in manufacturing SMEs. The target population was 400 manufacturing SMEs operating in KwaZulu-Natal. A quota and convenient sampling was used to determine the sample size. A 5-point Likert scale questionnaire design was used as a data collection instrument. Statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS (version 25.0). The results of this study indicated that innovation is affected by lack of educated leadership and qualified workforce. The results also showed that rapid technology changes impacts on innovative leadership ability to acquire up-to-date technology advancement. The findings are limited by the study’s empirical, quantitative nature and small sample. The study findings can be used for generalizing but with considerable caution and further research with larger sample size consisting of various South African provinces is therefore recommended.