Creative Leaders and Everyone Else

I’ve had more than a few bosses speak about creativity. It was a continual drumbeat early in my career and it’s something I continually hear today. It would appear everybody wants to be brilliantly creative and that even includes those who are not.

Don’t get me wrong. Who wouldn’t want to be original and innovative. There’s nothing wrong with the desire to be gifted or talented. I remember listening to truly talented musicians who could make magic with their voice or their instruments. I knew no matter how hard I practiced or how hard I worked I could never match their skill level. They were blessed with a special gift and that was pretty much the end of it. Of course, this never dampened my love for music. I was playing music simply for the joy of it. The fact I was only a marginal musician was not a concern. It didn’t really bother me because I was well aware of my limitations.

I can’t say the same for a fair number of former bosses who were convinced they were blessed with creativity. Usually their ideas were bland, lackluster and derivative. Naturally, they never saw it that way because they were convince their concepts were brilliant. They were in charge after all, so it must be true. I can’t help but think back on all the projects that were ruined by executives who mistakenly thought they had original ideas. In most cases their ideas were awful, but you’d never convince them of that. More than a few projects went down in flames because of bone-headed ideas foisted on us by executives who saw themselves as, “creative.” I still remember one executive who thought of himself as a brilliant filmmaker simply because he had seen a lot of movies. I guess reading a lot of books would probably make one a gifted author. I was once blessed with the opportunity to work for a major entertainment company that was brim full of creative individuals with ground breaking ideas. Plus, we also had a management that supported creativity and cleared the way for exploration, innovation and originality. That marvelous, magical combination ignited a creative powerhouse that drove the company forward and left the competitors in its wake.

It’s not all bad news, of course. Creativity can still survive and thrive today. However, that requires an organization with open, informed management. Management that will embrace creative leadership and allow creativity to happen. The sad part about large organizations is that poor leaders tend to remain in power much too long. Apparently, it’s a good deal easier to hide in a massive company. In a much smaller enterprise you would immediately be revealed for the fraud you are. I still remember one boss lamenting the rapid changes in the marketplace and how difficult it was to keep up. What the “leader” failed to realize was, you can never keep up by following. You’ll continue to bring up the rear unless you break the endless loop. That means you must lead the pack. A pretty daunting task, to be sure. But, that’s exactly what being a creative leader is all about.

I've worked for a few creative leaders in my time, along with a fair number of those who were not.

I've worked for a few creative leaders in my time, along with a fair number of those who were not.