Creative leaders manage for creativity

If you are not situated at the heart of a Silicon Valley startup, there is a good chance that your organisation is driven by some degree of traditional leadership. But how do we as leaders build a creative mindset, and can we manage creativity? 

Some years ago Harward Business School invited a range of business leaders from companies whose success depended on creativity to discuss this question. Their answer was that managers do not manage creativity. They manage for creativity. This is important to bear in mind when defining your role as a leader. To unfold it a bit more, I have outlined 5 characteristics of creative leadership that might inspire you. 

Creative leaders expect the world to change

The world is changing at an enormous speed these years from digitalization, information sharing, and endless connectivity. We see new value-generating trends such as sharing economy, the internet of things, and big data. We are not even capable of imagining where new technologies will take us. Creative leaders adapt a creative mindset building on the assumption that change will happen, and that we are here to create generous and sustainable solutions for the future.

They seek new opportunities and responsible solutions

According to the next generation of leaders are visionary thinkers with social passion. They think globally and are aware of their social and environmental impact while being able to transform opportunities into sustainable business models. They are mindful and aware of what is going on here and now. They are not afraid to engage with the unknown, and they allow mistakes to create sustainable concepts that the world has not seen yet.

They encourage creativity in their team

Today’s creative leaders know that they might not be the source of the idea. Their role is to understand how and when their team members contribute in the creative proces. According to Harward Business Review, the new generation of leaders engage imagination rather than assigning people to projects. They have realized that the greatest success comes from employees’ own initiatives.

They map the phases of creative work

One of the most fundamental things in creative leadership, is to sketch and map out the stages of the creative process. Creative leaders recognize that different phases need different approaches, skills, and support.  

They build connections

Most innovations today come from many contributors working in an interdependent network. You can enhance diversity in your creative team by looking outside your own organisation and create connections that enhance your opportunities and capabilities. Open-source development might be the future on innovation. I have previously described how creativity is a matter of working on the edge of the box rather than thinking outside it. That means building connections to other professional areas, technologies, markets etc.

Now, this post is only just scratching the surface of creative leadership, but hey – we have to start somewhere, right? I will be back with more in depth posts on creative leaders.

Learn more

The image in this post is from a visit I made to Copenhagen I 2016. It’s an installation called Playscapes by JDS architects. Positioned on the waterfront it is a great example of a city managing for creativity by encouraging people to play when going out in the public space.

For more readings I suggest you read this article from Harward Business Review:

If you want to know more about the need for creative leaders, read this article from THNK:

You are welcome to share your thoughts or comments.

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