Why Great Leaders Care About Creativity

I hear it all the time: “Being creative is only for certain types of people.” Turns out, it’s a wrong opinion and assumption.

A popular study conducted in the 1990s found that 86 percent of kindergartners surveyed tested at “creative genius” levels. Alternatively, only 15 percent of high school students fell into this category. Something happened that went well beyond being born with the “creativity DNA.”

You could argue our culture has created an elitist mentality around creativity or placed a clear lack of emphasis on exploring, nurturing, and developing an individual’s creative side. Either way, somewhere along the line people start believing they aren’t meant to be creative.  

This can be felt immensely in the workplace. Professionals get scared to show their creative side and don’t come up with new ideas or leave the creative problem-solving for someone else for fear of failing.

However, being creative is where the real value can be found even if success is not immediate. Standing out in the hyper-competitive business world is much easier to do as an outside-of-the-box thinker. Here are three reasons you should care about being a creative.

1. Your value can grow exponentially.

I’m going to assume that your organization falls into the majority and relies heavily on technology and software. Without the use of these things, we could get nothing done, right? While this is mostly true, there are still many gaps technology isn’t able to fill. Creativity can’t be automated or replicated by a machine. Creative solutions are needed across all industries.

Branding yourself as a creative instantly increases your value in the workplace. Only humans possess the ability to be wholly and fundamentally random. A curiosity accompanies this and ultimately leads to broader knowledge and better business results.

I had a chance to interview Allen Gannett, CEO of TrackMaven, on the Follow My Lead podcast. He stresses the importance of being a creative in his new book, The Creative Curve. Gannett highlights the need for people to think about both the novel and the familiar. To reach the creativity level necessary to flourish, Gannett says, one must find the right tension of the two. Aiming to accomplish the two simultaneously is the best way to “future-proof” your business.

2. Cultivating the creativity of others improves performance.

A recent study ​conducted by IBM concluded that creativity is the most important leadership quality relevant to business success. When a leader is creative, they are able to recognize that creativity and creative problem solving are necessary building blocks of performance. Imparting this mentality onto employees is an instant accelerator to the business.

The best way to cultivate creativity in yourself and in your people is to encourage what Gannett calls “the law of consumption.” This is all about consuming as much as possible about the industry, what’s happening and what might happen.

Allotting time for you and your employees to read, watch, and study without judgment will allow the creative juices to start to form. Throwing out the pressure to produce quick results and chase short-term profit presents the opportunity to achieve that previously mentioned place that’s ideally novel and familiar.

3. Creativity breeds vulnerability.

Being authentic and vulnerable is one of the most effective things a leader can be. But being a vulnerable leader takes practice. A creative person is innately vulnerable as they take risks by coming up with and exposing their new ideas to others. Visiting that place of openness and collaboration with your team will ultimately make you a better, more connected leader.

Engaging others throughout your creative process, even when you discover failure, demonstrates the trust you have in your people. This sets the stage for your team to feel confident and comfortable when it’s their turn to share. The fear of judgment is immediately alleviated. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, passionately believes that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. There is no shame in being vulnerable, as it’s far from the place of weakness people often perceive it to be. Instilling this mentality in your employees will help you lead through times of failure into bigger success.

It’s important to remember that the creative process is for everyone, not just the select few. The challenge lies in believing that you are capable–even if you fail–of coming up with ideas that are both novel and familiar.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a full-service organizational health company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is also the author of FML: Standing Out and Being a Leader and the upcoming book “The Welder Leader.” You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

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