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Leadership Traits – Creativity
By Gerald Gillis

Creativity is essential in remaining relevant in a business world now characterized by fast pace and rapid change. It is needed to stay ahead of competition that has become more and more global and cutthroat. It is needed not only to solve problems, but to see ahead clearly enough to identify opportunities that others may be missing.

Truly innovative leaders have the ability to see connections across data, ideas, concepts, and past experience. They can then see the patterns and project forward, developing even better ideas and solutions.

Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Innovative leaders question conventional thinking and constantly develop different (and sometimes even radical) ideas about how something can be done better. They do more than merely look straight ahead for the obvious, and instead look at all angles. By always questioning, they develop other mental traits such as observing, sorting, and recognizing patterns. They experiment, they are curious, and they have a love for learning. By their example, they very often establish a culture of learning in their own organizations which can also serve as a creativity-multiplier.

Creative leaders do have some innate ability in understanding and solving problems. Many have strong imaginations and a healthy sense of self that often provide them with a higher tolerance for risk-taking and a lower fear of failure. Some are non-conformists and unconventional, requiring less social approval than many others.

So, can leadership creativity be developed and nurtured? I believe so, yes. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Generate lots of ideas. Look not only for the commonplace, but for the truly innovative, game-changing, and transformational. Originality is the key here.
  • Experiment with the good ideas. Always look to go from good-to-great. Don’t be dissuaded by the fear of failure. Thomas Edison viewed each failure as one step closer to success.

  • Be a passionate advocate of creativity and originality. Never remain satisfied with the status quo. Become an organization of learners and creative problem solvers.

  • Protect the truly creative. Some individuals who have astonishing creative gifts are often viewed as nerds or social outcasts, perhaps worse. Make sure their contributions are recognized and shared, and that their value to the team is understood and appreciated.

  • Inspire others. Share the wins on how creative approaches set the competition back on its heels. Dissect the failures and disseminate the lessons learned. Distribute the credit liberally and unselfishly.

Creative leaders help transform stodgy companies into organizations that are invigorated, competitive, and valuable. The companies are built to last not only by the skillful, innovative leader, but also by the cumulative creative energies of the entire organization.

Gerald Gillis is the author of the award-winning historical novel “Shall Never See So Much.” Gerald’s forthcoming novel, a business thriller, is due for release in the Fall, 2012. Visit his website at http://www.geraldgillis.com and his blog at http://geraldgillis.blogspot.com.

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