18 November 2013

In a world that struggles to adapt to its vastly differing perspectives while facing difficult economic times it is critical to spread the idea of imagination, creativity and innovation as indispensable tools of survival for all ... And leadership is required to do that!

Wayne Morris, percussionist, leader and mentorPeople are creative beings by nature. People need to have a creative outlet for expression in order to be happy, lively and functioning members of society. Our need for connection creates community but a community loses access to the richness and vitality of its members when creativity is not nurtured. A healthy community is a community that uses the creativity of its members to their fullest.

At the heart of any great community are creativity, collaboration and leadership.

But what sort of leadership?

Cover of  Imagine by Jonah LehrerJonah Lehrer in his book Imagine says: “When the right mixture of people come together and when they collaborate in the right way, what happens can often feel like magic. But it’s not magic. There is a reason why some groups are more than the sum of their parts.” And I would suggest it has to do with creative leadership.

The creative process – what we do to bring desired results into being – has been the most successful process for accomplishment in history. The most important developments in civilisation have come about through the creative process.

Edward de Bono is quoted as saying: “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important resource of all. Without creativity there would be no progress and we would be forever repeating the same pattern.”

A 2010 IBM study identified creativity as being the most important leadership quality for success in business.

Precursors to innovation

Then why is it that when I talk to most business people about creativity their eyes glaze over? Talk to them about innovation and there is some life behind the eyes but the reality is that without the precursors of imagination and creativity, innovation cannot exist.

Perhaps it’s time to look for new models of leading. What would this new breed of leader be like?

There are researchers and practitioners who give us clues as to what this new breed of leader might do. The work of Peter Koestenbaum  and his Leadership Diamond® is one; Peter Block is another.

"From problems to possibilities"

According to Peter Block, “Leadership is about intention, convening, valuing relatedness, and presenting choices. It is not a personality characteristic or a matter of style and therefore it requires nothing more than what all of us already have. It creates conditions where the context shifts from a place of fear and fault to one of gifts, generosity and abundance; from problems to possibilities.”

Cover of Finding Your Element by Ken RobinsonSir Ken Robinson has this to say. “The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it's to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they're valued. So it's much more about creating climates. I think it's a big shift for a lot of people.”

My own research into the characteristics of creative people may also give some insight as to what we might look for in our leaders. I maintain that creative leaders are visionary, face reality, are adaptable, have perseverance, and are competent, ethical, courageous and curious.

These qualities came firstly from my research into highly creative people but more recently, I have been exploring the same qualities in leaders. Take the time to think of leaders you would regard as being both effective and creative and see if the characteristics fit.

I’m keen to hear from anyone who would like to comment on these qualities. Research never ends.

Wayne Morris is an artist, percussionist and Managing Director of Future Edge Ltd in New Plymouth.

He is also one of seven mentors participating in a ten-month mentoring project as part of Arts Access Aotearoa’s pilot Creative Spaces Leadership Programme. Read a Q and A interview with Wayne about his mentorship. 

The qualities of leadership


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