7 Steps to develop Creative Leadership skills

By Somali K Chakrabarti


Creativity is a Leadership trait


‘Creative people are difficult to deal with!’
More often than not, this is the general perception about people with a creative bend of mind. They are seen as complicated people, as non conformists who prefer to remain in their world of imagination, who tend to avoid normal routine, and are hence perceived as difficult to deal with. Eccentricity, ego and unconventional behavior are the traits that are often associated with creative people.

Yet, today when leaders are expected to initiate and affect changes across non hierarchical, geographically distributed teams, creativity is increasingly being considered as an essential leadership trait. The concept of blending creativity with leadership is gaining relevance as new technologies are emerging swiftly, markets are growing at a dynamic pace and the customer needs are evolving continuously.

Organizations need to watch out for white space and innovate continuously to remain competitive and survive in the long run. If you are working in a technology based organization, chances are that you would probably be looking at ways to redesign a product in order to bring out a new version every 6 months.

Creative Thinking

Creativity is the catalyst for Innovation

When looked at in isolation, creativity is about artistic imagination, or creating something unique, but in the context of business, creativity is defined as the ability to produce new original ideas that serve some value or solve some problem. Creativity involves novelty, usefulness and realization. It is the ability to come up with indigenous ideas and ‘Innovation’ lies in converting those ideas into marketable products or services.



Developing Creative Leadership skills

As creativity is the catalyst for innovation, leaders who wish to promote innovation must embody creativity and create an environment that stimulates people to be more creative and innovative.

There are two aspects to creative leadership:

  1. To develop a creative approach to problem solving
  2. To create a culture of creativity and innovation

Creativity, however, cannot be left to chance. Much like learning any new skill, leaders need to develop or enhance their creativity skills by learning and trying on new behaviors, and putting those into practice.


The following 7 ways will help you to develop a creative approach and culture for creativity:

  1. Question the rules

To think creatively, accept ambiguity as a part of life and view yourself more as an explorer than a person with specialized knowledge in a particular field.  While generating new ideas, remove mental blocks and question the rules. Do not go by pre-conceived notions – ask why or why not.

  1. Separate generation of ideas from the evaluation and selection of ideas

One of the very basic principles of creative thinking is to separate the generation of ideas from their evaluation and selection.  While generating ideas allow imagination to override practical thinking. Balance the use of divergence (generating diverse options) and convergence (narrowing down to the most promising options)  

  1. Defer judgement

Do not form an opinion outright. Judging an idea too quickly stifles creativity. A varied range of ideas can be generated if they are not interrupted with judgment, either positive or negative.  

  1. Use Affirmative judgement

Delay the elimination of ideas. Look at what is right with an idea rather than what is wrong with it. There may be some very strange and unusual options that may be easy to discount, but if thought upon properly can be developed into workable solution.

Pacemaker, Microwave Owen or Post It notes would not have existed, had these not been accidentally invented.

  1. Allow incubation time

Taking a break from the idea or problem gives your brain time to unconsciously work on it.  It can sometimes bring new insights and a fresh perspective on the situation.  

  1. Evaluate your current environment

Assess if your current environment is conducive to creativity to get an idea of the changes that you may need to make. The essential ingredients of a creative work culture are:

  • A dynamic work environment with a sense of purpose, action and activity
  • Mentally stimulating work
  • Time for generating new ideas
  • Acceptance for new ideas, tolerance for risks, mistakes and failure
  • Autonomy to individuals
  • Environment of trust and openness
  • Getting people involved in resolving problems
  • Reward for good performance

   Creativity is Contagious

  1. Create the climate for creativity, innovation and change

After assessing, make the necessary changes to create the environment where people are inspired to contribute their ideas, thoughts, and insights so that innovation and change can occur. Showing enthusiasm, demonstrating support and creating the right environment to foster creativity can ignite minds, and act as a trigger to spark creative ideas.

Creativity is contagious. Organizations need leaders who can fire up the imagination of people and create a vibrant work environment, so that people willingly contribute and come up with out of the box solutions. Hopefully these skills will get you started on your journey as a Creative Leader, and you’ll be the catalyst for change that your organization desires.



CREATIVE LEADERSHIP: ITS MEANING AND VALUE FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION by Gerard J. Puccio, Marie Mance, Jeffrey Zacko-Smith , International Center for Studies in Creativity, Buffalo State, State University of New York


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