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Creative Leadership

What creative leaders have & how to harness your creativity as you lead

By Hannah Massen

We generally picture leaders as being charismatic, determined, and natural-born risk-takers. But picking up the reins and leading requires more than just courage. 

They’re not afraid of failure

No one wants to hear that they have a bad business idea, but even if their plan isn’t logistically possible, they refuse to go back to the drawing board. Creative leaders are flexible enough to start back at square one if Plan A didn’t work out, and sometimes they strike gold in the process. Fail fast, fail often, and fail forward – and always ask for feedback. 

They are coaches, teachers and mentors

Creative leaders know that it’s not about their creativity, but their teams’. They know when to step in as a manager, work shoulder-to-shoulder with employees, or mentor from a distance so that everyone else in the office can do their best work. They implement processes, methods, and environments that foster creativity, not to play to their own strengths. Making the professional development of your employees a priority is essential to building an innovative business. 

They see the big picture

Creative leaders are like skydivers who can act quickly from a thirty-thousand-foot view but understand how things work at ground level. In other words, they know how each idea, project, and employee ties into their overarching business goals. Always keeping your end-game in mind will make you a better strategist. 

They encourage collaboration

The ability to imagine and execute new ideas is the hallmark of creative leadership. Creative leaders are the movers and shakers of their industries because they’re not afraid to challenge the status quo and take a leap of faith. But they don’t walk the road less traveled alone – they pave the way for their teams to follow. These entrepreneurs seek input from all levels of their organizations and encourage collaboration across departments. Empowering employees to take initiative allows them to discover opportunities and allows them to invest in the outcome of their work. 

They ask the right questions

No matter how much experience they have, creative leaders are humble enough to know when they’re not the smartest people in the room, and they don’t try to be. And when they don’t know or understand something, they make it their mission to find the answers they need. Curiosity is a sign of maturity and professionalism, not ignorance. Learning from others will only help you expand your knowledge base – and can make for good networking, too.

Professional Development Tools and Resources

  • Create a mentorship program. Mentorship programs help employees create professional relationships across tiers and divisions, but creating a concrete set of guidelines is essential for the program’s success. For example, your company should make an effort to create events that allow mentors to connect with one another on a personal level, such as mentorship lunches or outings. Mentors should be encouraged to communicate with their mentees on a regular basis, and a program coordinator should monitor the success of the relationships.
  • Offer in-house or online courses. The professional development courses available on SkillPath (www.skillpath.com) or edX (www.edx.org) will expand their skill sets and teach them more about their industries. These courses cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from Spanish language classes to leadership development. If you want to offer courses that are specific to your company, ask senior members of your team to lead a webinar or lunch-and-learn. 
  • Provide access to industry resources. When you invest in relevant resources like software tools and subscriptions, it empowers employees to take responsibility for their own professional development. You also might consider inviting industry leaders to speak at your company or sponsor events that will be free for employees to attend.

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