Creative Leadership 5

creative, leadership, rodin, the thinker, thinking, ideas

I mentioned in my last post that leaders need to acquire fresh eyes to see the creative opportunities and solutions that surround them. Creativity is not always about running with the first solution or idea that occurs to you, rather, it’s searching for a better one. This is because most of the time, the first idea or solution is not usually the best one. It is hard work to dig deeper for more ideas because the natural default is to settle for the first ones. Creativity demands perseverance. Thomas Edison, the famous inventor of the light bulb and who is widely regarded as a creative genius, said that “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. This also applies to creativity. Creative leaders may make it look easy but there is a lot of sweat and toil involved.

According to Michael Michalko, a distinguishing characteristic of creative individuals is their immense productivity. They tend to produce a lot more good ideas than their counterparts but they also produce more bad ideas as well. They are prolific; discarding the bad ideas out of the large quantity of ideas that they produce and retaining the good ones which are presented to the general public as solutions or products.

Thomas Edison at the time of his death in 1931 held 1,093 patents which is still a record for one individual. His immense creative output was as a result of setting idea quotas for himself. This required him to come up with a minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every 6 months. The art of thinking creatively became habitual for Edison because he had trained his mind to think at a higher level as a result of the challenging idea quotas he set for himself.  The mind is quite elastic but only if you stimulate and challenge it.

We live in a world powered by ideas, hence, leaders need to emulate Edison by setting idea quotas for themselves as they seek to move their organisations and teams forward. You will only really grow as a creative leader when you set challenging, measurable and specific idea goals that stretch your mind.

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7 Responses to Creative Leadership 5

  1. tosin

    Setting creativity goals? That’s a new but good one-never considered before. I must put that into practice.

    Thank you

  2. Tamara Ng'ambi

    “The art of thinking creatively”…..This is thought provoking.

    From the article, I think that creative leadership and being influential in the right field all starts off with using thinking as an art and thinking the right things…things which are progressive, towards your specific and measurable goals.

    We certainly do need to maximise the elasticity of our minds. Thank you for this.

  3. Ogechi

    Thanks for this breakdown.
    I was just thinking that if I set a quota for my creative ideas, won’t the ideas lose the spontaneity of creativity?
    I mean, I agree that Leaders have gotta be able to think in output, but I dare say that in Edison’s case, it became a habitual challenge he set for himself. A premature leader might risk becoming a trendsetter who can’t seem to ever set the standards if Edison’s style is employed.

    I like that you enforce that the first idea or solution is not always best. It compliments the fact that leaders have to be flexible- ready to make positive changes.

    Here’s what I’m taking home: I’ve gotta keep stretching myself. The jackpot outside-the-box idea is a creative thought away.

  4. nice. Very insightful. I have been reading loads on this issue because I believe I have a future as a leader. Random question tho: Can there be true leadership without creativity?

    • Yes, you can have leadership without creativity but it will only be mediocre or average at best. This is because this type of leader will strive to stay within his or her comfort zone which stifles the followers. You can’t be a good or great leader without some degree of creativity. It is a requirement for problem solving which all leaders have to deal with.

      • Thanks for quick response. I have this belief as well that a good leader must also have first been a good follower to someone. This leads me to my question which hopeful is still within the remit of your article.

        Whilst waiting for your ‘time’ of leadership and being under people, how creative can you get without seeming like you are attempting to usurp the true leader’s authority?

        How do you balance being a good follower with trying to express your creativity as you know that the seed of leadership is in you?

        • Q1: Whilst waiting for your ‘time’ of leadership and being under people, how creative can you get without seeming like you are attempting to usurp the true leader’s authority?

          I will say as creative as you can be. The caveat is that you need to know your leader’s temperament in order to decide when your creativity can be misinterpreted as contempt or cockiness. It is delicate balance which requires wisdom. Insecure leaders try to stifle their subordinates’ creativity but confident and self aware ones don’t. It is also advisable to present some of your creative ideas to the leader first in private before piloting them in public without approval but again it depends on the leader in question. Strive to be creative in areas which you have been delegated authority and get buy-in in those areas which you don’t have authority.

          Q2: How do you balance being a good follower with trying to express your creativity as you know that the seed of leadership is in you?

          You ought to treat followership as a training ground for leadership. Great leaders were good followers. Joshua and Moses is a great example. You are not always going to agree with your leader’s decisions and actions but he or she still has the final say. This is natural cos you have different personalities and leadership styles. You can however learn from the man or woman in charge no matter how much you differ from each other. As Benjamin Disraeli said “the secret of success is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes.”.Your leader opportunity and time will come but the question is will you be ready?
          Hope this is helpful?

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