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Leadership Creativity and Innovation

February 1, 2018

by Lysa Miller

CEO Founder

Creative leadership drives productivity and fosters success in a company. This article breaks down the importance of creativity in the workplace and in leadership styles. 

Updated July 18, 2022

Creativity is one of the most important qualities of a modern business leader.

Creativity itself is the abandonment of rigid structures, a very desirable trait for individuals in leadership positions to have in a corporate setting, which goes outside of typical business models.

This article discusses the business benefits associated with creative leadership and how it can improve an organization. It also suggests strategies for leaders to improve and grow as creative leaders and help foster those leadership qualities and creative thinking in others.

Looking for experts in creative leadership to guide your team? Connect with a top consulting firm today on Clutch. 

What is Creative and Innovative Leadership?

Creative, innovative leaders have the ability to look at things in new ways and solve problems by seeing things others don’t.

Further, they build an environment that allows others to showcase their creativity and get outside of their comfort zone. By fostering a culture of innovation and ambition, teams are better equipped to problem-solve with innovative ideas, instill a competitive advantage, and remain dedicated to their mission.

7 Important Leadership Qualities for Creatives

Creative leadership as a concept on its own can be somewhat vague. But there are plenty of other qualities that define creative leadership. 

Managers, business owners, and employees should be able to point out these qualities in themselves and others to encourage a creative culture of collaborative builders with myriad skill sets.  

Important leadership qualities for fostering a creative environment include: 

  • Inventiveness
  • Imagination
  • Innovation
  • Vision
  • Progressiveness
  • Originality
  • Resourcefulness

All of these are characteristics of successful creative leaders who are changing our world today.

The role of creativity in leadership is vital to any organization's survival in the ever-changing business and cultural climate that exists today.

Creativity Is the Most Important Leadership Quality

Through survey-based research, IBM discovered that creativity is deemed the most important leadership quality among leaders themselves. 

The survey included perspectives from 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world. 

They found that creativity was ranked the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing integrity and global thinking.

Most Important Leadership Qualities

Source: Fast Company

There are many advantages to creative leadership within companies, including

  • Problem-solving
  • Achieving growth
  • Mentoring teams in the workplace
  • Finding unlikely perspectives within the business through diverse teams

Each of the advantages of creative leadership and their applications to business are listed below.

3 New Types of Problem Solving

Creative leadership helps companies by opening up new opportunities for problem solving and growth that more conventional methods would not allow for.

New perspectives on problems from a creative approach can lead to new and perhaps previously unheard-of solutions.

Companies looking to build upon their creative leadership qualities should take the following problem-solving steps:

  1. Achieving goals and growth
  2. Fostering a positive workplace mentality
  3. Finding unlikely perspectives

Searching for opportunities to exhibit each of these solutions within your company can help build up creative leadership qualities internally. 

1. Achieving Goals and Growth

When leaders approach goals from a creative point of view, they gain the ability to reach goals more easily.

A creative leader sees unique paths to reach these goals. Whether it is how to increase profit or expand product offerings, the creative leader has the ability to map out a path to reach new levels of success that other leaders within the company can’t see.

By giving teams the opportunity to achieve their goals, businesses make way for creative people to see their full potential. 

2. Fostering a Positive Workplace Mentality

As companies grow and processes change over time, lower-level staff can often feel ostracized or forgotten.

Creative leadership presents a number of opportunities to remedy this mindset by implementing non-traditional techniques and ideas to include people and teams in the company’s success.

A creative leader might suggest having employees brainstorm ideas from their point of view instead of taking ideas from the top.

Employees don’t always have the same information as management, so seeing problems or innovating ideas from within could lead to new or profound ideas and information to help form solutions to problems.

New businesses change over time, but change shouldn’t be bad. Give your employees room for adaptability while fostering a positive culture in workspaces. 

3. Finding Unlikely Perspectives

In order to thrive, a company must grow, adapt, and create its own path to success. Creative leaders embrace unlikely and unpopular viewpoints. Unlikely perspectives allow for new and exciting avenues to be revealed, which can be used to devise new and exciting changes to help the company thrive and grow.

For example, Fidji Simo is the vice president of products at Facebook and is responsible for developing the global phenomenon “Facebook Live.” She found an unlikely perspective by asking her teams, “What feelings do people want to have?” and designing the product around what makes people feel good. 

6 Strategies for Growing as a Creative Leader

Creativity creates many enticing opportunities for both the leader and in the workplace.

As a company expands, leaders spend more time on managing the business and can miss out on chances to be creative leaders and contributors to their team.

Use the following advice in your efforts to become a more creative leader in a busy, thriving workplace:

  1. Keep educating yourself
  2. Attend industry events
  3. Rely on your team and foster teammate growth
  4. Build thought leadership
  5. Take time to be creative
  6. Enjoy the creative process

These 6 creative leadership approaches will ensure that you continue developing important leadership qualities in the workplace. 

1. Continue to Educate Yourself

Continued learning is one of the most effective steps to take toward becoming a creative leader.

Educational resources range from single articles to full-blown courses for individuals in leadership positions that teach strategies for creative leadership in the workplace.

Leaders should also look to other individuals with experience when learning about leadership and management to take them to higher levels. Employees and other individuals in similar positions are fantastic resources for learning how to be a better and more creative leader.

2. Attend Industry Events

Events and seminars are a staple of corporate training and are employed by a great number of companies looking to advance team-building, leadership development, and management training.

The same holds true when it comes to creative management training. Finding a seminar and attending it allows an individual a visceral, in-person resource for becoming a more creative leader.

3. Rely on the Team and Allow Them to Grow

A team can be an extension of its creative leader by providing their ideas and insights into day-to-day decision-making and problem-solving.

Providing autonomy and some decision-making power to a team allows their creative leadership skills to thrive. Further, your employees will appreciate the creative freedom and trust you’re giving them in the process. After all, 96% of engaged employees trust their management team. 

By relying on a team, a creative leader has more time and energy to focus on the bigger picture goals and ideas, which gives them the room to come up with new products or prototypes and new approaches. 

Giving your team room to grow on their own will benefit both them and you, the creative leader. 

4. Develop Thought Leadership

Building a reputation as an expert goes a long way toward building trust as a creative leader.

According to the Harvard Business Review’s book Creative Confidence, communicating innovative ideas and documenting and sharing their evolution in search of new insights can communicate your thought processes to others.

You naturally set yourself apart as an innovative thought leader in your field by providing creative leadership expertise.

Just a few recommended strategies for developing thought leadership in your industry include:

  • Hosting webinars
  • Speaking at industry events 
  • Joining industry roundtables
  • Sharing insights on LinkedIn and other social media channels
  • Creating content for your website 
  • Search out guest posting opportunities on other online publications 

Each of these options gives you the chance to share knowledge and be an inspiration to others as a creative leader.

5. Take Scheduled Time to be Creative

Every creative leader needs time to clear their mind, reflect, and be creative. Creative leaders need to focus on big-picture ideas and reflect on what put them there in the first place: their creative vision.

Most employees feel that they don’t have much time in the day for creativity with their busy schedules. Companies like Google are known for creativity and note that some of their success in this arena comes from empowering their employees and encouraging expression at every opportunity

Quiet time exercising, being outdoors, meditating, and doing activities that quiet the mind can wipe the slate clean. In turn, this allows for time and clarity outside the busy day of running a company.

6. Have Fun

Having fun with your company team and industry peers creates an open, unstructured atmosphere that can spark creativity. Relaxing and enjoying activities with like-minded individuals leads to energized conversations and open-forum brainstorming.

Communicating in an unstructured environment outside the workplace gets your mind off the daily grind and can lead to higher productivity with employees and peers. The creative vibe and energy that shines from a creative leader inspire the people around him or her.

Creative Leadership Helps Problem-Solving and Inspires Others

Creativity is one of the most important characteristics of an effective leader and fosters a successful and healthy workplace environment.

Creativity opens up opportunities for problem-solving, achieving goals, and inspiring teams to be creative and find unlikely perspectives.

Employing creative leadership-building strategies, such as continuing education, relying on trusted teammates, developing thought leadership, reflection, taking scheduled time out to develop creative skills, leaning on mentors, and just having fun with peers, are essential in the journey to becoming a successful creative leader in a thriving company.

Companies looking to grow creative leadership on their teams may benefit from working with a top-ranked consulting team to get started.

About the Author

Headshot of Lysa MillerLysa Miller is a partner at the award-winning digital agency, 3 Media Web in Hudson, MA. She is an expert source for topics relating to all things web, social media, and entrepreneurship, has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, Fortune.com, Business Insider, CIO, Daily Worth and Business Insider and is a blogger for MassVacation.com, along with a regular content contributor to various other online publications.  Lysa is a co-founder of the MetroWest Women's Network, a professional network empowering women in MetroWest Massachusetts, and a co-founder of the collaborative workspace Cowork Hudson.

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