Do We Want Creative Leaders?

By | June 15, 2022

[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).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

21 thoughts on “Do We Want Creative Leaders?

  1. Seller of Faith

    Sir, excellent blog post. Surprised me. Made me think.

  2. Winston

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for grabbing my attention and giving me something useful to think about. Creative leadership is a fad today but I found that most of what I read on it has little to do with creative leadership. Your article is much better.

  3. Martin Shiell

    Another fine article worthy of forwarding to good friends and family. If you are involved in any business or the military (or any large complex org), then look into this idea of creative leadership and how the are removed as they climb the career ladder. Interesting. Thanks Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Bernard

      Yep, exactly why I’m reading this leadership blog. Gen. Satterfield regularly nails it like he did today.

  4. Idiot Savant

    Hey guys and gals, just a bit off topic but read Gen. Satterfield’s DAILY FAVORITES today. Do this to see what he believes to be important. It gives insight into how he thinks.

  5. Willie Strumburger

    This whole idea that the selection process for senior leader positions does, in fact, filter out the more creative leaders is an interesting one. Gen. Satterfield has written about something that I’ve witnessed now for a long time. I just never could put the words to it.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Yep, this is why I read his blog every day!!!! ❤❤❤❤❤

  6. JT Patterson

    Gen. Satterfield, once again I am enjoying your articles. This idea of creative leadership has been around a long time but I’d like to read more about what you think about it.

  7. Pumpkin Spice

    Giving examples of creative people from Gen. Satterfield makes more sense than anything else I’ve read about creative leaders, “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.”

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Funny how Gen. Satterfield always seems to be ahead of the curve on important concepts like this. Just another reason to read his blog.

      1. mainer

        And, if you want to support him in this effort, at least buy his book. Our Longest Year in Iraq is a stunner. If you want to read about the inside workings of war, this is the book for you. No blood and guts (sorry) but it tells of the bureaucracy that slows our military.

  8. Max Foster

    Here is one article’s definition of creative leadership, “A creative leader has a clear and cohesive vision for growth, yet remains flexible and responsive to shifting consumer demands, anticipating and adapting to trends in order to ensure continued relevancy. He or she must possess the confidence to act boldly and unconventionally, but also understand how to collaborate, build relationships, and empathize with others.” This is what I often find. Nothing here is about “creative” leadership but flexible leadership which is ALWAYS present in the better leaders.

      1. Oakie from OK

        Got that right. If they want to discuss “creative” leaders then do it and stop putting out such angst against normal leadership. The latter which works just fine. ✔

  9. Stacey Borden

    We really want a balance in our leaders. They must be creative but the process of selection runs counter to that trait. So either the creative trait is hidden or it will be to that leader’s detriment.

    1. Harold M. Smith II

      Good point, Stacey. Too many articles and books stray from this point.


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