[June 15, 2022] The answer to that question is NO. Do we really “not” want creative leaders? Emphatically, the answer always is the same – we do not want creative leaders, and we put mechanisms in place to ensure they do not rise to the top of their profession. The answer really should be YES!
Yet, we know that creativity has value. Creative people are entrepreneurs. Creative people revitalize cities. They make things magnificent and beautiful. Just look at Europe over the last couple of thousand years; the growth of architecture, art, religion, philosophy, and the idea of representative government. What occurred during that time was on an almost unimaginable scale.
Traditional leaders exist and have their greatest value in structured organizations. These organizations have specific processes that teach us how to fit within their structure, follow the rules and advance up the hierarchy. I know I was successful at climbing that career ladder to the top. And all my friends did too. Looking back upon what we did, we all lacked simple creative thinking.
Leaders that fit in don’t like unnecessary risks. Leaders are rewarded for following the rules, knowing the rules really well, and justifying and communicating those rules. Creative people are more willing to take risks for a high return. Leaders are taught this strategy puts too much in jeopardy and should be avoided.
And creative people are a pain in the neck, especially within structured institutions. They are always “making waves” and disrupting the flow of ideas and products. Unsurprisingly, creative folks don’t know anything about marketing, sales, customer service, building an organization, or running a business. They don’t have a clue.
Yet, we need creative people as leaders, even when the system keeps them from where they need to be. We need those who are problem detectors and problem solvers. Creative leaders are always trying to find and solve problems. Such a person aims to formulate the problem so that others understand it and come up with solutions. They are always finding new ways to see, interpret, and comprehend.
While we don’t want creative leaders, the best and most vibrant organizations are those that can identify those with creative impulses and protect them from the ravages of the bureaucratic engine. Creative leaders may be difficult, but we need them more than we know.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).