What is creative leadership?
Creative leadership is the capacity to recognize and solve new problems. It involves managing your feelings in order to become a more productive, successful leader.
What traits do creative leaders possess? Here are some of them: ・Ability to envision what could be; ・Willingness to take risks; and ・A drive for success.
How can you help those who report to you to become creative leaders?
・Support them in the transition from follower to leader;・Reward constructive criticism with constructive discussions; and・Allow your employees opportunities to explore different problem-solving techniques.
The two most important parts of creativity are the process and product.
The process includes the beliefs you have about your abilities and potential.
The product is what you create with the help of these beliefs.
The way you bring your creative thinking skills to the workplace will need to be tailored to suit your individual needs and environment.
There are many ways you can use creativity in a leadership position, but there are some underlying techniques that most successful leaders have used at one time or another in their careers. Following is an overview of these key strategies:
- Plan for the future and look beyond preconceptions of your workplace.
- Bring your values to the fore and already know what type of person you want in your team.
- Develop a collaborative, trusting relationship with other leaders within your organization but maintain independence for yourself.
- Give yourself something to look forward to and get involved in as many projects as possible; this will help motivate you and give you long-term goals that stretch yourself and your team out of their comfort zone.
- Identify problems everywhere you go; talk to anyone who will listen, challenge the norm, and generate new possibilities for solving issues or improving efficiency.
- Look at things from different perspectives to gain new insights into problems. You may be able to find hidden solutions by looking at them from a new angle.
- Use imagination to think about the possible results of your next decision in relation to your company’s vision and mission.
Become a creative-thinking role model. If you want people to think creatively, be a leader who loves new ideas and shares them openly. Think about your company culture and open up conversations that encourage out-of-the box thinking around projects, challenges, and goals. The more you can loosen the reins on employees’ creativity, the more they will put their full creative selves on display.
Embrace your inner geek. Many of us have an inner geek (and some like to show it off). Be sure you model “geek” thinking not just when the topic is technology but also for any other challenges, big or small, that face your team. Present a problem and ask people to come up with solutions that you’d never think of yourself.
Remove the fear factor from failure. Create an environment that celebrates failure as long as people learn from it and try again! If you take away fear, your employees will be more likely to continue trying new things in the hopes that they don’t fail.
Spark creativity by asking questions to get people thinking first and coming up with solutions second. When you ask people to come up with ideas or solutions, try not to give any direction at all – only the question or problem statement. For instance, if you need ideas for a new event, instead of asking what your team thinks should be covered or how the event should be organized, ask for a list of every topic they can think of that would fit with the theme you’ve given them. It might seem like this is wasting time up front, but it will give people more freedom to come up with ideas and let their creativity be expressed.
Use visual thinking tools to foster creativity. The article speaks a lot about “whiteboarding” and mind mapping, both of which have been proven to stimulate creativity in groups. If you want to try these techniques out with your team or just see what they look like, go to Google Images and search for mind mapping, whiteboarding, or other visual thinking tools. You can see a mind map here:
Give your employees time and space to experiment with their creativity. Not all creative-thinking sessions need to be deep dives into a topic that your team is facing – they can simply be an opportunity to give people some safe playing room to come up with new ideas. Consider giving your team a creative challenge, like coming up with 10 crazy and not-so-crazy uses for an ordinary object – like how to use a broom creatively! You might be surprised at the creativity that comes out of this playful exercise.
Clarify your team’s creative mission. As a leader, it is important that you clearly communicate your company’s values and the role you want creativity to play in its future success. This will allow employees to realize their individual potential while maintaining a clear focus.
Give projects a creative context. Creative leadership is about doing something new and different – but it’s also about maintaining the safety of the group, which begins with the leader’s attitude and approach to creativity. If you want your team to be more creative but are afraid to let them try anything too new or crazy, you are limiting your team’s potential and the likelihood that they will feel safe enough to try new ideas.
Understand your role in creativity for yourself and for your team members. You can’t expect everyone on your teams to be creative all the time, but as a leader, you need to lead by example and model creative thinking in every aspect of your role. When you do this, everyone else on the team will feel more confident about showing their own creativity whenever they have an opportunity.
Encourage teamwork instead of individual competition when it comes to creativity. It’s all too easy for a group of creative minds to get caught up in competition. The last thing you want is for this to happen! Encourage your team members to build on each others’ ideas and create a culture of teamwork that will make everyone feel more confident.
Set the bar high when it comes to creative leadership at your company. If you expect high creativity from your employees, they will be more willing to give it 100% of the time. Always encourage your team to create something new and better, and that will set a good example for everyone involved.
Provide resources for creativity within your company. Creativity doesn’t come out of nowhere – it needs space, freedom, and support in order to flourish. If you want your employees to be more creative, provide them with extra time, tools, and supplies that will enable them to achieve a state of flow.
Set up an “inner circle” for the creatives on your team who are doing great work. The creativity bar is constantly rising in today’s business world, and you can help push it up even higher by recognizing the company’s top performers with an inner circle. These employees will serve as powerful role models and will inspire others to do even better work.
Create multi-disciplinary teams for more effective creative ideas. Creative thinking is about connecting different ideas, but when a team is only made up of members from one area, the connections they can make are limited. When you create a team that draws on different perspectives and experiences, you are much more likely to create new ideas and solutions.
Consider an “office romance” for your top creatives. It may seem counterintuitive, but encouraging office romances can actually result in better creativity (as long as there are boundaries and ground rules). Romance leads to higher levels of oxytocin, which makes people feel more connected – and not just to their partners!
Encourage outside-the-box thinking but don’t let it overwhelm the core values of your company. A lot of creative thinking takes place outside of the box, but companies can’t afford to lose sight of their core values and mission. Be sure to make time for both!
Create a “brain trust” that looks at all aspects of your business through the lens of creativity. You don’t have to use this group of associates every time a new idea is needed, but you can draw on their creativity when a crisis arises or when you need to refresh your business model.
Accept failures as the foundation for more creative solutions. People who are afraid to fail aren’t going to be very creative, and people who see failure as part of the creative process will be more willing to push the envelope when it comes to trying new ideas.
Encourage your team members to collaborate with people outside of their company. Bringing in people from other companies, or even bringing in outside experts, can result in a higher level of creativity that you would never have achieved on your own. Set up a “conference room” where your team members can go to brainstorm with people from other companies.
Use music in the workplace as an antidote for stress and a catalyst for more creativity. A lot of research has been done on how music affects our moods, and studies have shown that it can actually increase our ability to be creative. A team that is stressed out will not be very creative – so make sure everyone has the tools they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle!
Encourage your workers to pursue their own passions and hobbies outside of work. Your employees aren’t paid to just show up, do their jobs, and go home. They’re paid to be creative, and part of that is pursuing their own passions. You want your employees’ energy to go into the work they are doing for you – not outside of it!
Create a “hot-tub atmosphere” for your workers by getting them in small groups to talk about what other companies are doing. This can be a great way to get employees in touch with what is going on outside of their own companies, and it will encourage them to be as creative as possible in order to remain competitive.
Reward people who are innovative. The best way to keep your employees coming up with creative ideas and solutions is to show them that you appreciate that kind of work. Set up a reward system or other type of bonus for the team members who come up with new solutions or bring in outside-the-box ideas.
Create contests and competitions that focus on innovation, instead of just performance. If your employees know they will be rewarded for coming up with creative solutions to problems, they are much more likely to come up with creative solutions.
Encourage your workers to spend time getting to know each other away from work. The more they understand about the people they work with, the easier it will be for them to communicate – and that leads directly to increased creativity (not just at work but in every area of life).
Encourage employees to spend time thinking about the future. The more you can get your workers to sit back and think about where their company is going, rather than just focusing on tasks at hand, the more likely they are to come up with creative solutions – for both problems and opportunities.
A Creative Leader’s Role in Innovative Product Development
A creative leader is often the driving force in innovative product development. A noteworthy example of a creative leadership at work is Albert Einstein, who was the major contributor to the developments of quantum theory and general relativity, which led to his Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. With complete disregard of time-honored views of space and time, Einstein developed his special and general theories of relativity that for the first time offered a comprehensive explanation of physical reality based on only three simple postulates.
Creative Leaders are Innovators by Nature – Here’s How to Encourage it:
- Advocate for change at all levels: Depending on your business, there will be a lot to consider when innovating. For example, if you want to bring out a new product that is completely different from products of competitors, it may require serious investments in facilities and staff training which are not possible at the moment. At such times, you should advocate for change at all levels:
- Empower others to be creative thinkers: The most effective way to be creative is to have a creative group of people around you who are continually pushing the limits. In order to do this, it is important for you as a leader to empower your employees to think independently and challenge existing norms. You’ll need more than just three brains if you want an innovative product development team – so make sure you hire those brains who have that creative spark in them!
- Encourage risk-taking: In order for your developing team to come up with innovative products, they must be encouraged to take risks – especially when it comes to the end product. After all, a revolutionary new product will never come about if no one is willing to take the first step towards making it happen!
- Focus on products and services that solve pain points: In today’s interconnected world, there are bound to be a number of problems in any given industry. This is where creative thinkers can help – by focusing on developing innovative solutions for those issues that have yet to be addressed.
- Have a strong conviction in your ideas: If you want to encourage creativity amongst those who report to you, it is important that they know that you have complete faith – and support – in the path you’re personally taking them down. This means having an open line of communication between yourself and your employees, so that if difficulties arise, strong solutions can be created rather than a momentary pause in progress.
- Innovate to solve problems: In order for innovative product development teams to make a change in the world – whether it’s on a local or global scale – they must come up with practical solutions that actually work and get adopted by society at large.
- Have an open mind in order to be more creative: People who think outside the box are usually the most successful when it comes to innovative product development, because they aren’t afraid to question long-held beliefs and take risks – even if it means going against what society says is right!
- Cultivate an inclusive mindset in your employees: If your employees feel as if they’re a part of a larger, collaborative team not just an “employee”, this will encourage them to think freely and creatively. For example, collaboration is among the main principles used by companies like Google: shared spaces where people from different fields can come together to exchange ideas amongst teams!
The power of creativity lies within each one of us. The solutions to all our problems, and the answers to all our questions can be found within us – you just have to know how to utilize that creativity in order for your innovative product development team to flourish!
An epic win is an extraordinary success that you didn’t believe was possible until it happened. Self-doubt can be challenging to overcome, so it’s important to look for creative ways to engage in better self-talk and more proactive problem solving. These tips will help you strengthen your creativity and that of your teams. And you’ll feel confident and empowered to own your life. By embodying great leadership, you will go well beyond where people want to be and motivate them to work harder. If you want to be more creative at work, develop a creativity mindset. This course is just a taste of what’s possible.