Leadership is the ultimate creative skill in the corporate world. Creative leaders master the craft. They lead people and they lead change. Creative leadership is creating a culture of collaboration and excellence in the organization, so everyone can excel in it. Leadership excellence, today, redefines how businesses are conducted, how people are motivated, and how success is achieved.

What does creativity in leadership require? The answer is simply: technical competence, people competence, conceptual skills, personal character, optimism and balance of mind and heart. A lot indeed, but practical and found in effective leaders. A creative leader’s mission is to promote organizational and personal leadership based on constructive values, sound ethics and best practices of business. Vision and value creating go hand in hand in creative leaders. Creative leaders not only see the new possibilities, but they are risk takers and facilitate change. Not only does the enterprise change, but also the leaders change, and all the followers change.

Leading people

Creative leaders are people centric and get top performance from others. They expect creativity and innovation from their people. Too many people are concerned with keeping their job, than they are with living up to the potential of their position. Creative leaders drive the people and company towards focused objectives and with good relationships around. They get people out of the tunnel vision and excel in their jobs – with innovation, excellence, and success – to become “A” players.

A leader’s investment in the organization’s most valuable asset – its people – pays off in bottom line returns. Creative leaders, therefore, build a culture based on what is called the “circle of growth”. A cycle between employee performance, loyalty, and profitability. They firmly believe that culture produces growth. Culture does not happen. It is created and mastered on dedicated, intiutive and thoughtful leadership. There are five methods used by creative leaders to build culture and increase loyalty and profitability, namely: open communication, personal touch, maximization of resources, employee motivation and involvement, and avoiding mediocrity and drudgery at work.

Creative leaders are team players too. They build on their past experiences related to strategy, priorities, and accountability. They build relationships by touching people’s hearts and changing people’s minds. They work hard and win over people. They just don’t lead teams, they are part of it and help others become high performers. They lead from the front and show others how it is done. Creative leadership is not about “me” but “us”, and achieveing results. Effective leaders possess a special kind of self-confidence, and they put aside their egos. They harness collective brainpower and discipline for high performance environment and excellence of people.

Leading change

Bringing growth strategies to life hinges on the leadership in an organization. Getting people to collaborate, create a culture that fosters and rewards collaboration, productivity and innovation. Creative leaders “let go, to grow” by articulating their vision and giving away command and “dictatorial style” of leadership.

Creative leaders raise expectations and then execute with excellence. With disciplines strategic choices, a structure that supports the strategy and systems that enables a team to work together.

A winning culture and inspirational leadership, if you have all that you will get excellent execution.

Change leadership at organizations is about transforming players into winners. Just improving numbers is not enough. Deeper change is required. Sometimes the need for change is obvious from the company’s competitive position, internal and external. Although aspirations should stretch a company, it is counter productive to over promise and under deliver. Creative leaders rein the company by defining core capabilities and focusing on top priorities. And the priorities need to be communicated by leaders clearly, simply and frequently. People then understand their position and work for it.

To a large degree, leaders must define the future! They can play coach, but coaching does not mean coddling. Leaders are expected to make tough strategic choices. To help people make these strategic choices, leaders must challenge deeply held assumptions in principles and practices. Creative leaders are role models, but also make tough demands on people. Aspirations are energizing only when grounded in new ideas. Transformations always have a strong content dimension in developing winning ideas. This is what creative leaders do. It is the forward to the future mindset. Creative leaders may not be radical change agents, but more of serial change agents. They behave in series of small interlocking changes.

Social intelligence

Leaders may have high IQ, and yet be short of social EQ, or better known as social intelligence – the ability to get along with people. Social intelligence crystallizes much of what we know about human effectiveness. Creative leaders  have it in them. Social intelligence combined with the practical (rational) intelligence, aesthetic intelligence and kinesthetic intelligence.

We can categorize social intelligence as a combination of understanding people and a set of skills for interacting successfully with them. Social intelligence in leaders is about being toxic, or nourishing! Toxic people are pre-occupied with themselves and do not understand the impact they have on others (anti-magnetic). Nourishing people are who understand the social context of achieving their objectives by working from empathy. They present themselves effectively and earn respect of those they deal with (magnetic). We need to make social intelligence another development priority for successful creative leadership. Leadership is hard, but possible.

Prof. Sushil Bahl

MET Institute of Mass Media, Mumbai