***This article is inspired by chapter 6 of “Leadershift” by John C. Maxwell – “Maintaining to Creating” ***
Children have an abundance of creativity, but at some point, it seems to diminish for most people. I believe one of the key reasons is because adults believe they have to be “practical” and creativity doesn’t fit inside that box.
However, for leaders, teams, and organizations to thrive in our world today, creativity must be a high priority. Someone is always coming up with a new idea or new way of doing things that challenge the status quo.
You may be thinking “How can I lead a creative team if I’m not creative?”
I know the feeling! I thought that way for years.
I finally had a mental shift happen that changed my perspective forever. I realized that creativity is expressed in a wide variety of ways. In my mind, I had a very limited view of creativity that included artistic expression that I didn’t embody or even have an interest in – painting, drawing, dancing, music, etc.
A few things finally became clear to me…
I love to write and writing requires creativity.
I love to lead and leadership requires creativity.
I love to coach and coaching requires creativity.
Perhaps you don’t see how creativity is required in your work and leadership. I encourage you to look deeper.
If you’re in sales, you must be creative to pitch your products and services so you can finalize deals.
If you’re an engineer, you must be creative to solve problems and create new products.
Managers at any level must be creative to connect with employees so they’ll be able to achieve their goals and objectives.
Creativity is critical to leadership.
Consider John C. Maxwell’s 7 creative principles to learn and live by as a creative leader:
1 – Build a creative culture.
Even if you don’t see yourself as a naturally creative person, you can build a creative culture by surrounding yourself with creative people. Many of the legendary leaders that we’ve admired in our world weren’t the most creative, but they knew how to get creative people in the room. When you build a creative culture, you will attract creative people to your team and you’ll learn how to be more creative by simply being surrounded by them. Once you have gathered them, give them freedom to express their creativity.
2 – Make everything better.
“New and improved!” is a common marketing label on products and services. When you operate with this mindset, you will find creative ways to makes adjustments to what you already offer so that it can be better for your customers and clients. View everything you do as a work-in-progress that can and should be improved over time.
3 – Make plans but look for options.
Developing an initial plan is critical to get you moving, but as you gain momentum, continually look for options to take you farther. There are no perfect plans, so don’t get hung up finding the one “right” solution. Inflexibility kills creativity. Work the plan you have, but allow it to be fluid so you can adjust as new options become evident.
4 – Place a high value on ideas.
Ideas are the seeds of success. John Maxwell states, “If you have ideas you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and life.” Even if you think your idea is less-than-stellar, test it, analyze your results, learn from failures, innovate, and continue to try new things. If an idea pops into your mind, write it down and see where it takes you. Consider that all products and services in our world today were once ideas in the mind of the creators.
5 – Seek out and listen to different voices.
Creativity thrives when a topic or subject is approached from many different perspectives. If you are stuck, ask someone who is not closely associated with the problem you are trying to solve and hear their ideas. Sometimes we are too close to our work that “we can’t see the forest for the trees.” Ask for help. Invite people from other departments, teams, or organizations to speak into your process. You’ll be amazed at what others think of and contribute that you just couldn’t see for yourself.
6 – Take risks.
Most people avoid taking risks because, well, it’s risky! You aren’t guaranteed to succeed when you take a risk, but you also aren’t guaranteed to succeed by maintaining the status quo. Even doing nothing is risky! When you take a risk, your creativity will increase out of necessity. Risk-taking means that you are stepping into unknown territory that isn’t comfortable. It requires more of you than maintaining what you already have. This requires and ignites creativity.
7 – Live on the other side of “yes.”
When you say yes to something that isn’t easy, you inviting growth to come. It isn’t comfortable to say yes to unfamiliar or challenging opportunities, but your creativity will grow as you navigate the new challenge. If you’re afraid of failing, say yes anyway. If you question whether you or your team is ready, say yes, and grow into your success. While you should avoid saying yes to things that are outside of your vision and mission, many appropriate opportunities will arise that fit in well. Be courageous enough to say yes and step into the moment at hand.
Leadership is challenging in many ways. Whether you realize it or not, creativity is a key element of leadership. When you learn to intentionally inject creativity into your leadership, team, and organizational culture, you are giving everyone the opportunity to become better and more effective.
You are more creative than you think.
Make it a point to test or expand your creativity today.
Until next time…make today GREAT!