The Creative Leader & Creating an Environment for Innovation

January 17, 2009


rev o' lution for leadership
rev o’ lution for leadership

Here are my first of many thoughts surrounding the topic of leadership and creativity. As I wrote in my rev o’ lution posting a few weeks ago, good leadership is something I want to see, be, and understand more this year.  

The article Leadership As Creativity: Finding the Opportunity Hidden Within Decision Making and Dialogue, published by The National Endowment for the Arts was a good read to get me thinking about the qualities of creative leadership and its impact on success, achievement, and motivating others. Author John M. McCann references the work of Malcolm Knowles and his book The Adult Learner, A Neglected Species where eight beliefs about The Creative Leader are identified:

1. The Creative Leader has a positive belief system and outlook about the ability of others to get the job done and step up to the challenge.  

2. The Creative Leader understands the relationship between acknowledging that people are stakeholders and how this effectively influences their level of commitment and dedication to the work that needs to be done.

3. The Creative Leader creates a vision and expectation for success that others will contribute and rise up to.

4. The Creative Leader understands and values the unique contributions of the individual and recognizes that when people are able to work in an environment that empowers their strengths, ideas, skills, and knowledge, they will thrive and create great things.

5. The Creative Leader embraces creativity in others through cultivating, celebrating, and validating its use.  Also important is leading by example and showing others that the power of creativity is essential to surviving change.  

6. The Creative Leader is aware of the power of change and skillful in its management to create new opportunities and possibilities rooted in innovation.

7. The Creative Leader highlights and rewards gratification that encourages success, achievement, responsiblity, and integrity from within.

8. The Creative Leader promotes others to be self-directing and driven.

As I was reflecting on the list, each of the eight qualities towards creative leadership has important value to me.  Many of the examples I can recall when I was empowered by a Creative Leader in my own life applying these principles. Creative leadership has encouraged and taught me to do new and growth producing experiences, have belief and trust in my ideas, direction, and decisions- even in times when I did not even see this yet myself or know what exactly to do.    

I’ve also witnessed and experienced the opposite by working in systems or with individuals in positions of leadership that attempted to exercise control, isolation, micromanagement, and  ultimately kill the collaboration and fullfillment that comes with the process of developing new ideas.  These experiences have been valuable lessons in helping to identify what I truly need and want in good leadership, and to understand more about what is destructive and damaging towards fostering dedication, participation, and postitive morale in others.

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and their podcast, Creating an Environment for Innovation, sites three steps that can impact the successful creative growth within organizations:

The Elements of Destruction are Present at Creation– Creative leadership knows how to take appropriate action and is aware of possible inherit destructiveness that can threaten the innovation of the organization.

Soft Values Drive the Organization– CCL describes this as “how the game is played”. Valuing and cultivating qualities such as passion, dedication, and spirit is what fuels the organization’s energy and direction.

Trust is the Means and Love is the Unspoken Word A foundation of trust and compassion are essential to helping the organization face and deal with conflict and problem- if left unchecked this can weaken and slow down the organization’s ability to move forward with new ideas and goals.  What is CCL’s idea of love in the workplace? “Love means caring for others, being concerned about their personal and professional well-being and placing a high value on their interests. It means listening and trying to understand their concerns. It means respecting their intelligence and giving credit to their ideas. Loving the people within the organization gives innovation its best shot. ”

Enough said. At least for now…

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