Is creativity inherent in your leadership? 9 ways to harness

Creativity at workMy group is drifting into the first day of a leadership development programme. As they pass the tables laid out with an array of creative materials I could hear some mutterings of delight and also of ‘oh no I can’t draw, I am no good at making…’

I try to use a number of creative techniques such as: getting clients to draw a picture which envisions the future, using colours to depict moods, asking clients to tell their story, using metaphors, imagery ….in my work as a leader, coach and facilitator.

Creativity and Leadership

Creativity is inherent within leadership. It is impossible to be future focused, to imagine a different future without the use of creativity.

 “Creativity is an act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transform an existing domain into a new one…” Mihaly Csisszentmihalyi

Anything that is original, be it a product, service, process or a social movement…has to start somewhere and that somewhere starts with an idea of something that is different to what it is now.

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. As individuals we may all have good ideas from time to time. For organisations to be remain competitive, they need to have good ideas all the time and be able to harness these ideas to drive innovation. Fostering creativity and innovation were seen as critical leadership skills for the future in the DDI Leadership Forecast 2011

Are you a leader that?

  1. Challenges existing paradigms and the status quo
  2. Can envision future possibilities
  3. Embraces ambiguity, uncertainty  and disruption
  4. Harnesses the creative thinking of others

Leadership is about influence and change, questioning what is happening now and envisioning a way that is different – it’s about improving, doing better, progressing, doing differently…it’s about change and for that to take place, one must imagine ‘what could be’. For that to happen, you need to be creative in your thinking and doing.

collaborationIn today’s climate of economic austerity, ambiguity and complex problems, leaders need to come up with solutions that challenge existing thinking and ways of doing. No one person has all the skills, abilities and capabilities to do this.

Leaders therefore need to collaborate, tap into and draw on the creativity of others. One way, is to create a climate  which nurtures this. The culture of an organisation is a good indication of how creative its people are allowed to be.

Simple ways to harness organisational creativity include:

  1. Getting to know your staff, what makes them tick, their energies and passions
  2. Giving staff members the time and opportunity to generate new ideas. It is difficult to be creative in a high pressured, time constraint, stressed environment!
  3. Encouraging all levels of staff to come up with new ideas, valuing them and giving the opportunity to test them out where possible 
  4. Challenging staff to think in new and different ways and find solutions to organisation problems. What better fodder for creativity, learning and development
  5. Stop micro managing and allow staff to use their own judgment
  6. Encouraging openness, transparency and where staff can speak openly without fear of reprisal
  7. Supporting dialogue, debate and open discussions which embraces differing perspectives and deals with conflict  
  8. Mixing it upget staff from different levels, functions, departments to work together on projects
  9. Getting staff involved in collaborative projects with external stakeholders

Creative tools and processes

There are a number of creative tools and processes which you can use and engage with. From Creative problem solving, Synectics design thinking and De Bono’s 6 Thinking hats to TRIZ, Kano Model Analysis and Disney Creative strategy. Why not try one out with your team?


Sir Ken Robinson is an expert on creativity and author of Out of Minds: Learning to be Creative and The Element: How Finding your Passion Changes Everything

This animated video on Divergent thinking is worth watching as is his famous TED talk on Do schools kill creativity?

Read my blog on how to Reclaim your creativity! 5 ways to help you

How  are you developing your creativity? What strategies have worked for you?

What tips can you share in influencing a creative environment in your organisation

Image courtesy of Feelart at


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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3 Responses to Is creativity inherent in your leadership? 9 ways to harness

  1. Jamie says:

    Thanks for this great post, Vera. Creativity doesn’t come naturally to me so I need a bit of a reminder from time to time to switch things up.

  2. glass bongs says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now
    each time a comment is added I get three e-mails
    with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people
    from that service? Thank you!

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hello Christal

      You will need to un- click the tick box that says “Notify me when new
      comments are added”
      That way you will not receive further comments – it is the same on LinkedIn
      and other sites if you comment in group discussions

      Warm regards

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