Effective leadership requires you to be tenacious, bold, persuasive, and integrous — to name a few key attributes. Successful leaders are also some of the most creative people in business. They’re the ones who notice resourceful and imaginative solutions and inspire teams and companies to move forward and innovate. Here’s how to cultivate the skill of being a creative leader.
If you aspire to become this kind of leader, Erik Wahl, entrepreneur, and author of Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius, says, “I’ve found that in order to become a leader, you need to develop similar qualities to an artist—to tap into your creative intelligence in order to keep ahead of the crowd, stay nimble, and inspire those around you to push themselves, too.”
How intrinsic is creative leadership to the success of an organization? The answer is clear: 60 percent of polled CEOs have ranked creativity as the essential skill for leaders to hone, according to data published in Fast Company.
Creativity contributes to the ability to scale and expand, the flexibility to troubleshoot if needed, and the bandwidth to mentor and empowers a diverse team.
This brand of leadership is within reach for anyone, but it demands intentional work. If you want to learn how cultivate the traits of a creative leader, these strategies will help guide you.
Commit to Learning
To maintain a competitive industry presence, you need to be immersed in constant education, says Kenneth Mikkelsen, leadership advisor, and Harold Jarche, international consultant and speaker, in their Harvard Business Review article. They explain:
“Leaders must be comfortable with living in a state of continually becoming, a perpetual beta mode. Leaders who stay on top of society’s changes do so by being receptive and able to learn. In a time where the half-life of any skill is about five years, leaders bear a responsibility to renew their perspectives to secure the relevance of their organizations.”
If your goal is to be powerfully creative, you must never lose the mindset of a student. Attend conferences, collaborate with other leaders, and study the marketplace. The more you know, the more creative you can be.
Foster an Ecosystem of Collaboration
When the culture of your business prioritizes teamwork and functions as a cohesive unit, the result is astounding. With an ongoing sharing of ideas, talents, experiences, and knowledge, the creativity that takes a business idea from good to great is more comfortable to cultivate.
Michael Stahl, CMO of HealthMarkets, explains, “Being motivated to make something go from ‘good’ to awesome as a team is critical. By sharing and embracing the skills of everyone and genuinely wanting to see others improve and grow will benefit all team members and help great things happen.”
To be more creative as a leader, you need to harness the power of the team. Prioritize collaboration by giving employees the tools they need to connect and the time they need to meet and share during the workday.
Look for Mentorship From Other Creatives
Successful executives and business owners share one common trait: they surround themselves with other creative-minded leaders. 75 percent of entrepreneurs attribute much of their success to mentorship, reports Forbes.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to seek mentorship from those who are already innovating in your field. Simply being close to them will teach you how to view business solutions and management responsibilities through a transparent and resourceful lens, informing all aspects of how you motivate and bolster your team.
Start with your immediate network—you may already be connected with someone who would be willing to mentor you. If you’re not sure there’s a great fit, ask potential mentors for coffee and remember that you play a role in this partnership as well. Offering help in return allows you to provide value to them, whether you set up an introduction or offer insights in another area of business.
It can be easy to stay in a constant state of motion when you’re a leader. With so much to get done, you’re often caught bouncing from one meeting to the next, one project to another. However, it’s hard to cultivate creativity when you don’t have a chance to slow down.
In Mindful, Crystal Goh, an affiliate at the Applied Neuroscience Lab, says there are four stages to the creative brain:
- Preparation: Coming up with ideas using all different types of thinking and brainstorming.
- Incubation: Letting your ideas sit to get organized and set the stage for impactful insights.
- Illumination: The moment of creative insight; the “Ah-ha!” moment.
- Verification: Less imagination, more cognitive, and logical reasoning to bring the idea to life.
The key to cultivating creativity: using mindfulness to balance all four stages. Goh explains: “The brain is like an orchestra, with different sections playing in synchrony at different times. Balance is everything—too loud, too soft, out of sync or out of tune, and it doesn’t sound quite right. The key to optimizing the creative process is balancing brain networks.”
Find the Creative Leader Within You
Creative leadership is an art form—it stretches your mind, challenges the way you work, and broadens the whole organization’s capacity to innovate. The next time you assume that creativity is not a requisite for leadership, think again. Slow down, encourage collaboration, and commit to learning to use creativity to your advantage.