In today’s innovation driven economy, ideas are valuable assets. Research suggests that creativity is one of the top leadership competencies, and those who have creative ideas, recognise good ideas and are open to them, are better leaders. Yet, according to a recent PwC survey, 77% of CEOs struggle to find the creativity and innovation skills they need – because in the era of AI, creativity is still a human quality that can’t be automated.
Coming up with creative ideas and concepts requires bold thinking, but creative leadership is not just about having a lone creative leader at the top. It’s about igniting collective creativity from the bottom up, because creative leaders excel at creating creative leaders. The best performing leaders focus on developing creative leaders across their organisations, deepening strong relationships with employees and customers and achieving operational agility. They take calculated risks and are constantly improving their leadership and communication styles.
Shifting from “No, but..” to “Yes, and..”
When Fidji Simo, Facebook’s Vice President of product, responsible for virtually everything users see on Facebook, is developing a new product she doesn’t tell her team what to do. She asks a simple question instead – “What do we want people to feel?”. This approach has led to many innovative developments, including the popular features of Facebook Live. A simple change in language which encourages generating ideas, instead of shutting them down if they are not fitting the standard box can build trust and encourage individuals to speak up as well as quitter voices to be heard.
To inspire the best ideas from their teams and themselves, leaders need to create an environment that inspires imagination, curiosity and different ideas. This approach requires leaders to let go of the traditional way about being in control and encourage others to take part. Creative leaders are coaches, not commanders and act less as managers and more as facilitators, fostering self-respect rather than demanding it. They listen more and speak less to absorb different perspectives and they listen to their intuition too. Individuals are inclined to follow creative leaders with charisma and one hallmark of charisma is listening.
The pitfalls of creative leadership
Whilst creative leadership encourages innovation and growth, taking it to extreme can be damaging for individuals and businesses - Elon Musk’s recent Twitter scandal being an example. Musk, a visionary and one of the most creative leaders of our time tweeted last August, saying “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” Not only did Tesla’s shares propel 11% higher in one day, but the tweet caused a PR firestorm and legal controversy, resulting in Musk being sued for securities fraud by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The settlement required Musk to resign as a chairman and cost him $40 million.
Leaders who are not prepared to make mistakes, are not prepared to learn. Making mistakes is part of a leadership journey and creative leaders who are more prepared and willing to take the risk are the driving force behind successful organisations. They are ready to challenge the status quo and committed to ongoing business innovation that drives growth. At Acumen we offer development that gives leaders at all levels practical tools to help solve real life challenges. In most cases we design the interventions specifically for each customer, but we also offer a wide range of off the shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.