Lots of organizations rely on a Creative Director or Innovation Lead for their creative leadership. They’re theoretically given free reign to infuse the organization with ‘wild thinking, inspiration and a sense of the possible’. To them I say go, “good luck.” From where I stand, these folks are pushing an eternal boulder uphill with a good chance of getting flattened. Why? Because it’s one thing to talk an organizational creativity game, it’s another thing to ignite it on a daily basis.
So are you a killer creative leader? You are if you…
Know the power of process. True creative leaders understand that structure does not kill creativity – rather it can empower it like crazy. They know that by finding, creating and / or implementing the best processes to harness the ENTIRE organization’s potential (not just those with creative designations), they’re building sustainable, reliable and confident teams. They don’t rely on a few guys in a dark cupboard – instead they know how to come together and rock out ideas and solutions as a cohesive group. And when and if those processes no longer serve – killer creative leaders find, create and / or implement new ones instead of blaming the team for not delivering.
Get down and dirty. The most common criticism of leaders is that they’ve lost touch with what it’s like to have deliverables looming and no ideas or solutions. As a result, their expectations can get totally out of line with everything from timelines to feasibility. The best leaders regularly get down and dirty with their teams, helping them jam on strategy, big ideas, or even on what this year’s charity project should be. And when they do this, they actively see what’s working, what’s not, or more importantly WHO is or isn’t working. Not only do they prove their commitment and keep their skills honed, they get a true read on the creative chemistry of their organization.
Recognize and celebrate the ‘freak factor’. It’s one thing to ask for creativity – it’s another thing to hire and manage it. Truly ‘creative’ leaders actively seek out fresh, dynamic and usually off kilter people to infuse and infect their organizations with the creative ‘bug’. While they don’t just let people get away with anything and everything simply because they’re an asset, they do encourage them to fly their freak flags high and find ways to put those assets into play. They recognize and celebrate achievements AND failures. They give people a ‘place’, a home and help them to grow and mature their gifts instead of trying to squeeze them into a box. And they’re not just a ‘boss’ – they’re a business mentor, a leader, a beacon and an inspiration.
If you do nothing more or less than the above, there’s a pretty good chance that your people will take it from there and blow your minds. So check yourself regularly for the ‘killer’ factor and never, ever believe that creative fire keeps itself burning. It needs creative leaders like you to stoke it every day.