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The Need For Creative Leadership

The Need For Creative Leadership

The Need For Creative Leadership

Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” This seems to be backed up in the 2010 IBM Global poll of 1,541 Chief Executive Officers, General Managers, and high-level Public-Sector Leaders from 60 countries and 33 industries to find what qualities they felt would be needed for future leaders to build a successful organization. What seemed to surprise some was, those Leaders polled felt creativity was the most important quality for leaders to be successful into the future.

For me, and others, seeing creativity as the quality to face the future makes perfect sense. When we consider the forces facing today’s leaders, vast complexities, new and evolving markets, an overdose of complex data, shifting cultural mindsets, and so much more, it is no wonder those polled felt creativity needed to be front and center.

Being a Creative Leader focuses on helping organizations dance in the realm of future. Creative Leadership is key to helping organizations, at every level, face the future with speed and focus, while embracing a lateral understanding of change. Given the need for Creative Leaders, let’s address the question, “What is Creative Leadership?

What is Creative leadership:

Without trying to develop an “official” definition, Creative Leadership can be seen as a style of leadership where creativity is embraced, nurtured, and encouraged to truly develop innovative ideas at every level of the organization. It is less about “top-down” ideas of change, but a “lateral encouragement” to encourage change. It fosters an environment of “continuous change.”

By doing so, the Creative Leader guides an organization where ideas are triggered at every level and embraced at every level. They strive to supply the conditions for all to flourish, innovate, and in turn, be more productive. For example, a new staff person may see a new and different way to meet the customer’s needs quicker, with a greater level of efficiency, at a lower cost. Most current leadership models would stifle the possibility. Current leaders may say something like, “Well, you’ve not been here long enough to know what we do” or “We will need to move that idea to the Executive Staff, but I can assure you they will not change what we currently do” or, and this seems to be the most popular answer, “We’ve never done it like that before.”

Creative leaders would encourage them, work with them, embrace their ideas and watch the magic happen; the new idea will either bring great change, or fail, but either way the Creative Leader is willing to take the chance. New ideas should not have to “travel the food chain up three levels” just to be shot down by a manager, or executive, who have no idea about the need for change. Let the people doing the process find a better way. Let’s be honest, as an Executive, I do not care how the customer needs are met – all I want to know is that the customer needs are met, to the satisfaction of the customer.

The Two Core Elements:

To truly embrace creative leadership, one must be willing to stand firm on two very important elements which can elevate the entrepreneurial spirit in everyone. An entrepreneurial spirit is to embrace the ability to anticipate opportunities, envision new concepts, work with teams, and maintain flexibility to change.

The two core elements to Creative leadership are Divergence and Convergence.

The Divergent Element embraces and encourages change as a given at every level. Divergence is when the leader develops a culture of change, and an acceptance of change. It unleashes the courage, creativity where no idea is seen as silly of out of bounds.

Don’t confuse divergence thinking with brainstorming. Brainstorming is always done in teams, and usually addresses fixing a current process. In a normal brainstorming session, you may get 5-10 ideas which may, or may not, address the issues. Another downfall of brainstorming is someone may have a great idea that is so crazy, they fear being laughed at, or ignored as, “That’s just crazy.” Brainstorming is saying, “How can we fix what we are currently doing?”

Divergence encourages the crazy, the weird, the impossible and feeds off the crazy. It centers on a generous, inclusive, driven approach to the ideas and in developing new possibilities. You do not need a team to have divergent ideas come to life. While divergence woks within a team, it must go beyond the concepts behind brainstorming. Divergence encourages the weird, the crazy, the impossible; it breaks barriers, where anything is fair game. Divergence encourages breaking all preconceived patterns and encourages violation of the norms. Divergence is saying, “Forget about what we currently do, what can we do differently to get better results.”

The Convergence Element encourages people to make sense of the ideas and make mistake. It NEVER punish for a failed idea and embraces those willing to take a chance and dive into the deep end of change. Creative leadership focuses on finding the “positive points” and building upon them. If we concentrate on the problems, we only see the negative. But when we see problems as possibilities, we move ahead and find exciting ways to make changes. This is where we embrace ideas that may sound crazy, may require a calculated risk, but may bring about wonderful changes. Creative Leadership requires risk-taking, agility, and participation. Convergence is saying, “Now that we have all these crazy ideas, let’s actually do something with them and see what happens.”


Creative Leaders are not looking for new solutions to old problems, they truly seek to find new paradigms to face challenges. Creative Leadership breaks the bonds of poor communication, lack of clear direction, low energy, problem focused mindset, trust issues, and more. A creative leader has a clear and cohesive vision for growth and possibilities, the ability to share that vision with others, and the courage to let the team develop ideas to see the vision through. While they have the “overview” of the vision, they remain flexible and responsive to shifts consumer demands, employee needs, and cultural shifts while anticipating and adapting to new trends and changes in order stay relevant. They have the confidence to act on the weird and unconventionally, and fail, while seeking new ways to improve organizational challenges.