Creativity and Leadership

By | November 7, 2019

[November 7, 2019]  The young man, called “Pat” by his friends, was sitting in the darkness of his apartment while he contemplated what he would do.  Pat had a serious problem.  No money, illegal drug use, and overweight, he had to do something that would pull him out of his spiral downward.  Pat had a creative talent that had helped him in the past; he painted vibrant colors on old carpenter tools.

Pat’s “problem” was nearly 30 years ago.  Today, he has a family, respect from his neighbors, and had recovered from his drug and weight problems.  It was no easy climb, but it required something most of us would not do.  Building a successful business from nothing except a creative mind is a daunting task.

Creativity, as defined in Wikipedia, “is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed.”1  Now that’s clear, or is it?  The idea covers a wide swath of territory and, I think, clouds our understanding of the idea of creativity.  We can, of course, create something – an artifact – like a musical composition.  Pat did this when he painted on carpenter tools.

Creativity comes in two forms.  We often think of creativity as the building of achievements like art, performances, inventions, etc.  Yet, creativity is also the inclination to engage in creative thought and to translate that thought into something helpful to solve a problem.  Therefore, a creative person is also one who has a novel and useful idea.

Leadership, which we have defined and discussed on these pages repeatedly for years, is about getting people to do something they would not ordinarily do and to achieve a useful end.  Leadership is about problem-solving by thinking through a solution that others have difficulty solving.  The first step is to recognize that a problem exists, come up with a solution (others did not think of), and implement a solution.

Creativity is the essence of leadership in action.  There is no separation of the creative mind from leadership.  The leader is one who can move from a conceptual level (that can be complex and not easily understood) to rallying people that leader’s cause.  To do so requires a certain amount of intellect, good judgment, and social skills.

Leadership is, therefore, inseparable from creativity.  It should not surprise us that effective and ethical leadership means a creative mind is at work.  It’s the job of good leaders to solve hard problems.2  Leaders are a dime a dozen.  Good leaders are creative.




Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Creativity and Leadership

  1. JT Patterson

    Interesting article. I hope this guy Pat survives. Seems like a great person.

    1. Eric Coda

      Gen. Satterfield probably didn’t want to ID the guy and the name is also a moniker of sorts. Let’s leave it at that.

  2. Dennis Mathes

    “There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.” Salvador Dali

    1. Harry Donner

      Great quote by S. Dali.
      The romantic notion that mental illness and creativity are linked is so prominent in the public consciousness that it is rarely challenged.

  3. Kenny Foster

    It is not easy to be creative since you stand out from the crowd. Often you are derided for being creative (most folks, by definition are not) and put down. That is the cross that people with this ability must bear. To be a leader it is also not easy. Maybe, we have a connection between the two. Rightly so. Great analysis, Gen Satterfield.

    1. Jerome Smith

      I do believe that creative people have a harder time of it. If you look back into history, for example, of the greatest artists, you will find that many had mental problems. So, the question must be asked whether creativity is somehow also associated with mental disturbances. Certainly it must be.

      1. Tomas Clooney

        Good thinking, Jerome. How is this true? Perhaps others have attempted to explain but I haven’t found any.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      An unfortunate truth. Why do creative people get such negative feedback? That is a question for the ages.

  4. Army Captain

    I never quiet made the connection but I do believe you’ve hit onto something important here with the link between creativity and leadership. Often folks think that military leaders are too rigid in their thinking and behavior but that, I believe, is a factor of this historian’s myopic viewpoint.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Yes, something I too never thought about. I’ll be trying to find out more about this and if others have made the same link.

      1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

        Let us know what you find, Yusaf. Thanks for the work you’ll be doing in advance. 😊

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