Creativity and Leadership – A Coin Spinning

May 4, 2015
May 4, 2015 Joe Britto

“Birds fly, humans create” is Kevin Ashton’s democratizing view of creativity. In his interview on Canada’s CBC radio he dismisses the commonly held idea that there’s an elite group of bona fide geniuses while the rest of us can only dream of a eureka moment. In fact, he says, there are no “aha” moments and creativity and innovation are about making progress one step at a time.

Creativity and Leadership

And if that sounds like how leadership works, that’s because creativity and leadership are closely connected.

In fact, IBM’s 2010 Global CEO Study ranked creativity as the most important leadership quality. So important it outranked integrity and global thinking.

Why would that be?

Steven Tomasco, Director of Communications at IBM, may hold the key to that answer. Tomasco, was surprised at the result because “coming off the worst economic conditions they’d ever seen” he says, CEOs ”didn’t fall back on management discipline, existing best practices, rigor, or operations. In fact, they [did] just the opposite.”

Taking a Risk

What Tomasco is telling us is powerful: that real leadership needs a creative and entrepreneurial mentality.

That’s why as leaders, if we’re not taking risks; not willing to try new ideas; not willing to experience the nerve-wracking and exciting feeling of doing something different; then we’re not leading.

And if that sounds scary, then we’ve forgotten what Kevin Ashton is trying to tell us: creativity and leadership aren’t the domain of geniuses, it’s what we all do.

Ready, Set, Go

So how do we take a creative approach to leadership? Well, here’re a few tips:

  • Effective leadership is a collaborative chain reaction – use the expertise of the people around you
  • Remember leadership, like creativity, is about doing not thinking so be willing to try things, even if you’re not sure where they might lead
  • You don’t have a crystal ball, so don’t act like you do. Make decisions based on the information you have now, and adjust your course when more information comes to light
  • Be brave. Be willing to say and do things that aren’t part of your organizational culture
  • Begin by asking yourself, “What if I’m wrong about the best way to tackle this challenge?”
  • Look for opportunities to be creative. The simple truth is, the more you look the more you’ll see
  • As you flex your creative leadership muscle, notice what’s working and do more of it
  • Be gentle with yourself, if things don’t work out perfectly first time, keep going

Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list. What we’re talking about here is the courage to bring novel thinking to leadership challenges while focusing on the strategic and organizational needs of our business.

After all, isn’t that what leadership is all about?


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What to dive deeper?

Check out The Six Attributes of a Leadership Mindset by Joe Britto

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