The Value of Creative Leadership

I grew up in an artistic household – one I sometimes joke I needed to “recover from.” I was never surprised to find the hallway tagged by my parents’ artist friends or my potatoes shaped like the Eiffel Tower for dinner. It seemed everything was an art project, which was equal parts amusing and confusing.

Years later, as I sat in a wan, gray cubicle editing market research reports and drinking double espressos to stay awake, I came to appreciate my family’s eccentricity and their need for an artistic outlet. I realized that creativity gave my parents balance at a time when neither of them found it at their day jobs. But today, things are changing, and business leaders are beginning to understand the value of creative output.

Before I joined the Fisher Leadership Initiative, I directed an arts-based nonprofit program and learned both the perils and strengths of working in the arts fulltime. When contrasted against my experience in the traditional, cubicle-same business world, I found differences in method but not necessity. When it comes to defining values, and determining the importance of connectivity in order to achieve success, the arts and business worlds operate in similar ways. Companies, for-profit and not-for-profit alike, need to have a clear mission, a mutual vision and a dedicated team that is, most decidedly, not bored.

Eccentricity is something to applaud in the arts world, whereas in traditional business environments, uniformity is often prized for its direct line to short-term results. Although expecting a workforce to deliver on a well-mapped-out agenda is sometimes easier when roles are uniform, this model falsely promises that productivity will remain high. It does not account for burnout or the antithesis of productivity: boredom.

Although there may be some truth to the idea that clear guidelines lead to clear results (they do!), it is important for next-generation companies to lead by valuing the individual, and this means honoring the creative balance that people inherently need.

Leading companies are looking to emphasize individual strengths, dynamic teamwork strategies and team adaptability in place of sheer productivity alone. Conversely, this tends to lead to more long-term productivity. If a manager sees an employee as eccentric or not fitting in to the company culture – the proverbial square peg – that should be something to explore as an opportunity for creative growth, rather than a hindrance or distraction.

The technology industry has already caught on to the value of the individual. Google, for instance, offers employees paid time to explore areas of interest that lie outside their outlined roles. By giving employees freedom to be themselves, the company has been able to lead in many areas that demand a new way of thinking. Moreover, it encourages employees to think of their lives and roles in a more holistic way, which gives them more pride of ownership and more confidence in their contributions.

Today’s leaders realize that in our fast-paced working environment, where employees are expected to be efficient, they must think about how to provide balance. It seems to me that to embrace the individual is to embrace change, and all companies, no matter how prescriptive they have been in the past, need to do just that to keep up in an increasingly digital marketplace. Across industries, our business landscape is continuously evolving. Leaders need to stay ahead of the creative curve.


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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.