Factors underpinning creative leadership and innovative leadership

What constitutes creative leadership? What constitutes innovative leadership? How do these factors–creativity and innovation–influence a firm’s competitive advantage? These two articles, IBM’s Capitalizing on Complexity and Organizational Creativity: Building a Business Ba-Haus?, provide interesting insights.

In a previous post I discussed how firms can foster a culture of creativity and innovation. Innovative firms nurture the following:

  • High levels of interaction, discussion, and debate
  • Interpersonal and intergroup relations defined by trust, cooperation, and a sense of safety
  • Senior management that’s open to new ideas and improved ways of working, and proves its openness by encouraging such actions and funding them when meritorious

Indeed, IBM found that mid-market CEO’s consider creativity as one the most important leadership qualities. Creative leaders encourage experimentation, calculated risk taking, and are more willing to take on complex issues to drive deeper strategic and systemic changes. Further, these CEOs consider creativity as an essential element for successful leadership in an increasingly complex business environment. The IBM study found that creative leaders:

  • Invite disruptive innovation
  • Encourage others to drop outdated approaches and take balanced risks
  • Are open-minded and inventive in expanding their management and communications styles so as to engage with a new generation of employees, partners and customers

In the Bauhaus article cited above, the authors point to the following factors as influencing a culture–a “climate”–of creativity:

  • Involvement: To what degree are people challenged, involved and committed to making contributions to the success of the organization?
  • Freedom: To what degree are people able to decide how to do their jobs, take independent initiatives and make decisions?
  • Trust: To what degree do people trust each other, as well as feeling safe in being genuinely open and honest with each other?
  • Time: To what degree do people have the time to think, explore and test new ideas and ways of doing things?
  • Playfulness: To what degree do people feel it is OK to have fun when working, be playful and humorous?
  • Conflict: To what degree do people engage in interper- sonal conflict, prestige and territory struggles?
  • Support: To what degree do people encourage, warmly receive and professionally support ideas?
  • Debate: To what degree do people frequently share, con- sider and discuss a variety of viewpoints?
  • Risk Taking: To what degree do people regard failure as an opportunity to learn and feel able to take risks in trying new things?
The factors above foster a culture of success by creating a firm environ where employees AND management feel comfortable making mistakes and are rewarded for calculated risk taking. Further, these factors promote an overall sense of trust and compassion, which in turn promotes a culture of excellence, discipline, and execution.

Photo credit: 50 Watts

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