TOP TIPS FOR CREATIVE LEADERSHIP
Walk the talk: put yourself out there and back your team every step of the way. Be prepared to challenge them and encourage them to challenge you.
Maintain momentum: fail or succeed fast, gather information, make decisions and move forward. Once a decision is made, everyone needs to line up behind it.
Have fun: encourage staff to bring their whole personality to work and let the hidden talents of your team surface.
Take a moment to appreciate that someone created the company you work for. Its survival is testament to a leadership that cast its vision outward, shifted its thinking, revised its processes and, potentially, re-invented itself.
Creativity, innovation and agility are now the common lexicon for business survival and growth, but what does this mean for business leaders?
Newly appointed Executive Director, MBA and Executive Education for UniSA Business School, Peter Stevens, has come from the global corporation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where he was responsible for a globally-matrixed team of thousands of staff, using his creative leadership skills to meet ever-increasing service targets.
“When people think of creativity, they typically think of artistic pursuits, but creativity extends far beyond this. Business needs creativity to solve problems and remain agile enough to stay in the race. It’s all about innovative thought—new strategies, new perspectives and new ideas.
“As an individual entrepreneur, getting creative is somewhat easier to manage. But in an organisation, it's more complex as you have to allow the teams, and the individuals, enough space to create.
“The challenge is that freedom and space go against many of the principles that have worked for industry for so long. And for business, looking at creativity in this way can be confronting.”
The changing nature of competition means that businesses are faced with the challenge of weaving creativity into their culture, without losing the foundations on which they were built. According to Stevens, given the different skills involved, one approach is to separate idea generation from commercialisation.
“Idea generation needs maximum creativity and freedom. It’s the five-year-old in the room. But for it to be relevant, it needs to respect the core values of the organisation. So you might say it also needs its parents in the room.
“Idea commercialisation is where the adults in the room figure out how the business can use the idea to derive value and benefit its ultimate aims. Here, the parameters close in tighter; there will always be the commercial realities of business,” says Stevens.
Leading creativity is a nebulous pursuit that, ironically, requires some solid structure. People need an understanding of organisational direction, as well as safe psychological and behavioural spaces in which to create, test, fail, reset and test again.
“As a leader, your team needs to know that you’ve got their back and to feel secure enough to put forward an idea without being judged harshly,” says Stevens.
Stevens has some clear ideas about taking UniSA’s world-recognised MBA further on a global scale. “It’s an exciting time at the UniSA Business School. We have some outstanding products and the future opportunities are exponential. There’s always room to innovate and I will be encouraging my team to challenge, question and create at every opportunity.”
Creative leaders are decisive; they have an intuitive understanding of the freedom-control spectrum, and are prepared to make the wrong decision in preference to making none at all. Their clarity of purpose, and experience with the parameters of business success, help them build confidence. And it’s this combination that helps them judge just how far to take a creative idea.