Essentials Guide to the Creative Leadership Style

In management, leadership is defined as the process by which an individual guides and influences the work of others in the pursuit of specific goals. Leaders inspire, mentor and motivate their people. How they do this is what constitutes a leadership style.

In this article, we discuss the creative leadership style, how to go about it and the characteristics of creative leaders.

What is creative leadership?

Creative leadership is a style of leadership that is centred around working supportively to develop innovative ideas.

Creativity can be defined as the process of forming or developing something new and valuable. This might be a new object or a new system, a way of doing work or relating with partners. In other words, creative leadership sees leaders fostering an environment where innovation can thrive.

Creative leadership can be applied in a number of different but complementary ways:

Facilitating creativity-Leaders support teams and employees to develop creative ideas. This may include aspects like giving employees training on creativity.

Directing creativity-This application sees the leader providing the big idea and the rest of the team act as contributors that see it to fruition.

Integrating creativity-This type of scenario sees creative contributions from the leader and other team members being fused to make the end product. It differs from Directing creativity in that there is a greater emphasis on collaboration and unique contributions from others.

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What does creative leadership look like?

It embraces innovation

A cornerstone of the creative leadership style is a love for innovation and this can happen in any industry. People often think that innovation only takes place in the tech world. This is why creative leadership often brings to mind the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. But it can be implemented in Education, the food industry and so many others.

Creative leadership seeks out ways to improve and better products, ideas and systems.

It entertains multiple voices

Unlike with the autocratic leadership style where the leader has the ultimate power, creative leadership welcomes input from others.

Creative leaders know that the opinions and views of employees are what essentially result in creative solutions. In doing this, they are more likely to arrive at decisions that serve the needs of their different stakeholders.

It embraces taking risks

With creative leadership, there is an understanding that to achieve better results, it might be necessary to go in directions the company has never thought of before. This however doesn’t mean that the leadership style encourages recklessness. Calculated risks can be taken to push a business forward.

Characteristics of creative leaders

Creative leaders are often referred to as out of the box thinkers. They are able to think both creatively and strategically. They are open, good listeners and they believe in collaboration. It is not uncommon to find them relating with people outside of their own departments. They do this because they know that organisational goals are interconnected and require teamwork. They also believe that a good idea can come from anywhere.

If you are thinking about embracing creative leadership, there are traits that creative leaders tend to embody. Cultivate or learn these and you can enjoy the benefits of creative leadership.

They are great team managers

A creative workplace isn’t just about the manager, it is about the team. Creative leaders know that attracting and motivating creative thinkers is what will support innovation. In addition, they know how to assemble people with diverse views and skills. This mix of perspectives can result in innovative ideas.

Once they have hired creative individuals, they facilitate an environment for collaboration. Since they are great team managers, they open ideas up to interrogation. This results in more robust solutions.

They support a culture of honesty and open communication. With these ingredients in place, creative leaders are able to motivate their teams to achieve and exceed goals.

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi Co had this to say about a leader’s role in unlocking creativity in their teams. In addition, creative managers empower their people.

Creative leaders are agile

Creative leaders tend to adapt quickly to changes.  They are not afraid of unconventional ideas and they will look at things from new prior unconsidered angles. This also means that they are comfortable with implementing new ideas fast.

While they do not make reckless decisions, they trust their people and will implement a junior’s idea if they believe in it.

Implementing ideas fast can create a competitive advantage for the company, allowing them to go to market before any competitors.

They have a clear vision

From the first two examples, it is clear that a key characteristic of the creative leadership style is the ability to inspire others. This cannot be done in the absence of a clear vision and mission.

Creative leaders are very clear on where they see the company going and what they want to achieve. What’s more, they are able to help others see and embrace that same vision. When teams know why they are doing what they are doing, they are more effective.

They are resilient

Creative leaders don’t win all the time, however, they are resilient in the face of failure. They fail fast and try again. In other words, they learn quickly what did not work and correct those mistakes on the next iteration.

Their response to failure isn’t to blame others. Seeing this, the teams they lead learn to embrace failure and continue to innovate.

Resilience is also exhibited with resource management. Because they are creative, they are able to make do with what resources they have to get the job done. Giving them less than what they need will not stop them from going after their goals.

How creative leadership compares to other leadership styles

While creative leadership is distinct from some leadership styles such as autocratic leadership, it does have similarities to other leadership styles. It is also possible for one to adopt a sort of hybrid style, one which incorporates parts of creative leadership. In this way, you can reap the benefits of creative leadership without entirely giving up your preferred style of leadership.

Some styles similar to the creative leadership style include:

Authentic leadership: With this leadership style, leaders foster mutual trust and transparency. They look out for the growth of those they oversee.

Transformational leadership: Here, leaders inspire and motivate employees to look beyond their own interests and instead become invested in the needs of the team and of the organisation at large.

Visionary leadership: With this leadership style, leaders inspire teams by sharing the vision and helping them buy into it. With this vision, followers are then able to formulate ways to meet the goals.

In Summary

In our fast paced world, businesses need to continuously innovate in order to serve their customers better, beat competition and meet their goals. Creative leadership can guide a business towards all these and guard it from becoming obsolete.

However, businesses should opt for a leadership style that will best help them to achieve their goals. While not all companies can benefit from a purely creative leadership style, they can borrow some aspects of creative leadership and maximise their potential for growth.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.