A creative leader is someone with the ability to create something unique and applicable. Organisations, big and small, depend extensively on creative ideas to grow their business and sustain it after they have reached a global scale. While creativity and leadership are skills that come naturally to some; others have to work hard to develop them - by studying and practicing habits of successful leaders coupled with making small changes to their personal routines. An article in the Harvard Business Review emphasises the importance of making small and habitual changes to one’s routine like “trying a new way to delegate; reducing noise by shutting down your technology for a while; sharing your vision of the kind of world you’re trying to build with others; and even exercising regularly to reduce stress, enhance your focus”, and thus boost creativity.
Here are 5 tips to help you become a creative leader:
1. Accept failures and learn from them
Failures can fuel growth and progress, only if you allow yourself to learn from them. After all, some of the world’s greatest lessons are hidden in failures and perseverance. In an interview with FastCompany, Piera Geraldi says, “We launched Refinery29 in 2005 with an original idea or map of 29 different independent boutiques, and two days after launching traffic tanked. So within two days, we had to completely reimagine what it was we [Refinery29] were creating, how we were going to hold peoples’ attention and how we were going to continue to evolve what it is we were trying to do.” Today, Refinery29 is a much bigger brand than what the team envisioned and is loved by millions.Remember, most leaders don’t make it big because they constantly chase perfection; creative leaders aren’t afraid to try, fail, learn and grow.
2. Talk to your customers
Being a creative leader can be nerve wrecking, especially when you don’t know your customers well. The solution - talk to them. Even if you’re an FMCG brand with millions of customers, there is always a way to start a conversation with your audience. Get knee-deep in the dialogue and understand what motivates your customers to stay with your brand. Once you have enough information, hold brainstorming sessions with your team to develop creative ideas and solutions for your customers’ problems. Businesses, and business leaders, that talk to their customers are more nimble and adapt to changing market conditions much faster.
3. Trust your intuition, but back it with numbers
A good leader has an intuitive understanding of the business. If you’re already in a leadership role, you have extensive knowledge of your customers, the industry, and your competitors - sitting comfortably in your subconscious. The way intuition works is - when you face a situation that needs solving or requires creative ideas, your subconscious accesses this repository of knowledge and throws a solution at you. You just have to learn to listen.To develop strong intuition, practice justifying your gut feeling. Do your research and evaluate your numbers - engagement, profits, customer satisfaction, etc. There is no guarantee that you will always be right, nevertheless, continue in your pursuit to strengthen your intuition.
4. Improv your way to creative ideas
Creative people have incredible ideas, but sometimes they can’t channel them or they are worried about falling short of expectations. Improv exercises like describing objects or situations in detail, poetically, or like you’re writing a screenplay, can help leaders overcome this block. If you have a fear of public speaking, improv conversations about random topics with your friends and colleagues. This will not only ease conversations for you, but also boost creative ideas.Most leaders and creative professionals today suffer from Impostor Syndrome; a constant feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt. Improv helps them come up with ideas on the spot, making them feel less like an impostor.
5. Build a playful team
Good leaders are known for their team’s qualities, creativity, and output; not just for all the creative ideas they come up with. Hence, building a team that solves problems as creatively as you do is imperative. One way to ensure your team consistently delivers the best ideas and solutions to a problem is to allow them to be more human and have fun at work. A hilarious or ‘stupid’ thought that makes it to a meeting or brainstorming session is often the catalyst for the birth of an incredible out-of-the-box idea. Some of the world’s most creative leaders often choose a different setting, like an office park, to host creative discussions; because conference rooms are where budgets and incredible ideas get locked up.A leader has to wear many hats, and creativity is just one of them. Being a creative leader has significant benefits for you, your team and your company at large - it helps you achieve the company’s mission, envision a better future, and create a culture of inclusivity, collaboration and courage. Give these tips a go and see your creativity shine.Suggested Further Reading: 7 Storytelling Tips for Effective Leadership by Akhil Kakkar in YourStory.com.