Creative leadership will change the way organisations, people, and services are managed forever. Leadership and creativity work together to enable a dynamic workplace, innovative ideas, and elevated problem-solving that give organisations an edge over their competition.
Oftentimes, creativity is overlooked in the conversation about the role of a leader. Linkedin has consistently named creativity “the most important skill in the world” on their annual skills list. Leaders are responsible for promoting creativity in the workplace and implementing creative strategies and techniques like design thinking and brainstorming.
Learn more about how leaders can leverage creative thinking to inspire innovation and adapt quickly in a continually evolving digital world.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is the use of imagination to conceive new ideas. When people hear the word “creativity” they often associate this term with artists, designers, and musicians. The truth is, creativity flows into every area of life, from relationships and communication to business strategies and organisational development.
Creative thinking is commonly used in business and is the process by which individuals generate new ideas or approaches to business, from building a strategy to inventing a product. Three primary types of creative thinking enable creative leadership, including:
- Lateral thinking: Involves breaking down existing processes and asking “why” at every stage to determine if a better method, product, or service could be developed.
- Deliberate creativity: Employs strategies and techniques to intentionally spur creative problem-solving, like approaching a problem from each person’s perspective in an organisation to reach an equitable solution.
- Blue-sky thinking: Creating a safe space for brainstorming many possibilities and writing down many ideas without rejecting or dismissing out-of-the-box suggestions.
What is Creative Leadership?
Creative leadership is the ability to turn challenges into opportunities by approaching problem-solving with creative strategies and techniques. Creative leadership involves innovation, a willingness to listen, an openness to new ideas, the intentional prioritisation of creative thinking and the curiosity to embrace unconventional solutions.
According to Linkedin’s article, 6 Elements of Innovation Leadership, an innovative workplace that is rife with creativity must embody the following six elements:
- Collaborative: Teams that share their unique viewpoints and welcome interactive communication can produce higher levels of creativity.
- Responsible: Leaders must steer creative workshops and conversations to achieve the desired goal.
- Experimental: Creative leaders must be open to trying new things and testing novel processes and ideas.
- Value-focused: A creative environment should keep organisational values top-of-mind when developing business strategies, products, or services.
- Autonomous: Team members need the flexibility to take questions away and come back with individual answers to collaborate on.
- Transparent: Transparent communication helps team members and leaders record new ideas, track which concepts have been tested, and regroup throughout the ideation process.
The Benefits of Creative Leadership
Companies that employ creative leadership outperform their competitors on several key financial metrics by demonstrating above-average performance for organic revenue growth, total return to shareholders and net enterprise value. Discover the many benefits of creative leadership and how to capitalise on them in the context of business management.
Creativity Supports Design Thinking
Design thinking is a creative work process used to help professionals understand consumers, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and identify creative solutions. Design thinking has recently gained popularity because it digs deep and aims to understand the inner workings of people and products.
The concept of design thinking is rooted in creativity. Leaders can introduce their team to design thinking to stimulate more innovative ideas. This strategy employs five essential steps:
- Empathise with your user or consumer.
- Define the consumer’s pain points, needs, and apply insights.
- Ideate creative solutions by challenging normative strategies.
- Prototype and develop tangible products, services, or processes.
- Test the prototypes and iterate for improvement.
Creativity Adds Value
The most effective way for leaders and employees to enhance their sense of job security and satisfaction is by adding value to the organisation and team. According to IBM’s global CEO survey, CEOs rated creativity as the number one attribute they look for in new employees.
CEOs recognise that the world is changing rapidly, and creative leaders should be flexible, innovative, and solve problems with agility. Creativity in leadership is also evident in an organisation’s ROI. Research by McKinsey & Company shows that creative leaders outperform their competitors on key financial metrics, including:
- 67% had above-average organic revenue growth.
- 70% had above-average total return to shareholders.
- 74% had an above-average net enterprise value.
Creativity Solves Complex Problems
Complex problems require inventive solutions. Entrepreneur Magazine regarded creativity to be “your best problem-solving tool” because it can differentiate you and your company, transcend conventions, and offer the best solutions to complicated challenges.
The magazine outlined ways leaders can engage in creative practices to arrive at the best solutions for employees and organisational outcomes, including:
- Be more creative and act as a role model.
- Give yourself time every day to be creative.
- Prioritise boredom to make room for ideas.
- Talk to others to learn differentiated perspectives.
- Surround yourself with art, music, and creative work.
- Get inspired by the mundane environment around you.
Creativity Thrives in Diversity
Creativity comes to life in a diverse environment that is rich with varied opinions, people, perspectives, and points of view. Human Resources leaders are integral in facilitating a safe, inclusive, and communicative workplace where employees feel supported in their creativity.
Inclusive workplaces are six times more likely to be innovative when compared to their counterparts. So how do diverse and inclusive teams innovate so well? Great Place to Work, a global company that promotes equity for everyone in the workplace, outlines three ways inclusive teams act as engines of innovation:
- Diverse and inclusive teams create more unlikely ideas.
- Diverse teams are better at making decisions.
- Diverse teams are better at making innovative ideas happen.
Creativity Drives Innovation
Innovation is the introduction of new ideas, new processes, and new approaches to age-old problems. To welcome the new, leaders must question legacy systems and traditional management techniques. As a result, leaders are operating in an age of constant technological innovation, where businesses use data and advanced technology to rethink outdated business strategies.
According to Linkedin’s poll from 660+ million professionals and 20+ million jobs, the greatest skill gap is the ability to generate original ideas and solutions, otherwise known as creativity.
Fast Company also recognises the value of creativity and its role in driving innovation:
“Innovation doesn’t have to require deep pockets. We often think about the cost of innovation relating to R&D labs, hiring top scientists, and emerging technology, when really, we need to invest in creating the right environment for innovation to take place. It’s about spending time, not money.”
As an organisation, you don’t need an astronomical budget to achieve innovation. Oftentimes, leaders who choose to prioritise creative time will see higher returns, as was the case with organisations that saw 67% above-average organic revenue growth. This is because creativity and innovation are inextricably linked, and innovation drives organisational growth.
Creativity Helps Leaders Manage Change
The COVID-19 pandemic taught leaders around the world to expect the unexpected and learn to lead through times of uncertainty. Companies must prepare for the future with management that enlists creativity to drive innovation in fast-changing environments.
Agile organisations can weather periods of disruption. McKinsey & Company identified the UK organisations that responded quickly and effectively. The consulting group identified organisations that used creativity to stay agile during the COVID-19 pandemic and said: “These organizations used resilience preparation as their base and were able to adapt and innovate by adding new practices to react to the crisis.”
Adding new practices to an organisation under time constraints and pressure require immense creative resources. Leaders must brainstorm, formulate strategies, and experiment with change to emerge from a crisis unscathed. Creativity is an essential skill for allowing leaders to manage change and remain resilient during the “new normal”.
Learn Creative Leadership Skills in an MSc in Management & Innovation
Are you interested in leading a future-focussed organisation with confidence, curiosity, and creativity? Aston University’s distance learning MSc in Management & Innovation programme is designed for aspiring and current managers seeking problem-solving techniques and ways to unlock creative possibilities for organisations, teams, products, processes, and services.
The programme teaches students how to tackle real-world business scenarios through applied research. The coursework focuses on three essential domains, including developing:
- Creative Perspective: Learn to use creative thinking, tools and techniques to address innovation challenges in fast-developing commercial environments.
- Critical Thinking: Build on innovative and creative methods of thinking to investigate and respond to a range of organisational problems, challenges and opportunities.
- Managerial Vision: Understand management theory and concepts that reflect the dynamism and vibrancy of the global business and management environment.
Why Study with Aston University?
Learn essential leadership skills and creative business strategies in an MSc in Management & Innovation. Aston University is a globally distinguished university that is proudly recognised by numerous education authorities, including:
- University of the Year, The Guardian 2020
- Outstanding Entrepreneurial University, Times Higher Education 2020
- Triple accreditation from EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA
- 30th Best University in the UK, The Guardian University Guide 2021
Discover how earning an MSc in Management & Innovation online could help you develop a fresh approach to leadership designed to unleash your highest potential.