[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.