Successful leaders take creative approaches to push their companies forward. Creative leaders recognize business climate change, build trust-based relationships with employees, lead collaborations, establish solid consumer relationships, and address problems as opportunities. Becoming such a leader involves a solid intuition and a strong education.
What is Creative Leadership?
Creativity is a selling buzzword when it comes to leadership and management skills. Over the course of the past decade, top-tier companies have found that rigidly adhering to standard leadership methods prevents an organization from effectively preparing for inevitable business climate changes and unavoidable bumps in the road. The most successful companies have adopted creative leadership approaches, resulting in adaptable companies, happier employees, and more lucrative bottom lines.
Creative leadership is comprised of two main points: first, an innovative approach to leadership or bringing new methods of thinking to and acting on organizational challenges; and second, leadership for innovation in which leaders create organizational climates that encourage others in a culture of innovation.
Theories behind Organizational Leadership Creativity & Innovation
Two of the foundational theories applied to creativity and innovation in organizational leadership are Path-Goal Theory and Leader-Member Exchange Theory.
The Path-Goal Theory advocates the use of different types of leadership to clear pathways for subordinates to realize and achieve their goals. This theory aims to maximize workers’ outcomes by considering environmental factors and character in job performance. The workers’ ability to perceive immediate or future benefits from following the manager’s lead is crucial.
There are four types of leadership styles within the Path-Goal Theory:
- Supportive leadership: Here, you focus on relationships. You show sensitivity to individual team members' needs, and you consider your team members' best interests. This leadership style is best when tasks are repetitive or stressful.
- Directive leadership: With this, you communicate goals and expectations, and you assign clear tasks. This style works best when tasks or projects are unstructured, or when tasks are complex and team members are inexperienced.
- Participative leadership: With participative leadership, you focus on mutual participation. You consult with your group, and you consider their ideas and expertise before making a decision. This approach works best when your team members are experienced, when the task is complex and challenging, and when your team members want to give you their input.
- Achievement-oriented leadership: Here, you set challenging goals for your team. You have confidence in your team's abilities, so you expect your team to perform well, and you maintain high standards for everyone. This style works best when team members are unmotivated or unchallenged in their work.
The Leader-Member Exchange Theory first emerged in the 1970s. It focuses on the relationship that develops between managers and members of their teams. Within this theory, the relationships between management and subordinates go through three stages:
- Role taking: A leader evaluates the abilities and talents of a new team member and makes determinations on how the new member may best serve the organization. In this stage, both management and the new team member discover how to show respect toward the other party.
- Role making: An unstructured, casual negotiation between the leader and new member occurs in which the new member’s role is developed. Trust-building occurs during this stage; being perceived as trust-worthy classifies an employee as ‘in-group’, while not being viewed as trust-worthy results in being 'out-group.'
- Routinization: The employee’s status as in-group or out-group becomes routine. This perception impacts whether or not management sees employees as rising stars who receive much attention or if management spends little time on supporting and developing employees.
These time-tested theories apply key concepts to organizational leadership such as setting goals, identifying problems, emphasizing employee collaboration, empowerment, trust, loyalty, and guiding a group toward a novel goal.
Approaches to Creative Leadership
CEOs consider creativity to be one the most important leadership qualities for dealing with complex issues. Creative leaders in modern successful firms provide the following:
- Focus on developing other creative leaders to deepen partnerships with employees, artists, communities and customers,
- Anticipate business climate change and experiment with new business models,
- Have a vision for the organization that can be put into action,
- Know how to manage successes and failures; perceive problems as opportunities,
- Have the courage to make difficult decisions while keeping the company’s best interests in mind,
- Place a high value on individuality, understanding that people perform best when they are able to use their unique strengths, interests and talents,
- Recognize value and emphasize intrinsic motivators over extrinsic ones. Intrinsically motivated employees are encouraged by achievement, growth, and responsibility.
To an extent, creative leadership is intuitive; however, much can be learned through a comprehensive organizational leadership education. During the course of such study, future leaders learn from the precedents set by others.
Goal Achievement through Creative Thinking: Case Studies
Successful leaders know that innovative management views problems as opportunities to improve. Problem-solving techniques can address poor corporate performance, employee dissatisfaction or changing climate, as well as other potential issues. Some notable creative leadership approaches to handling organizational problems in recent years include:
- Best Buy: Though this initiative is now facing its end, Best Buy’s Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) program kept the company afloat through trying economic times. ROWE started as an employee-driven grassroots movement that promoted flexible work and telecommunications.
- Lufthansa: Between 2011 and 2012, the German airline was able to grow revenues by 8.6% with consumer-satisfying innovations such as improved designs in seating as well as exemplary in-flight services.
- The State Bank of India: The oldest bank in India, lacked financial resources to incentivize management to lead risky, innovative projects. Former Chairman O. P. Bhatt used effective communication and transformative training to create a sense of pride in employees toward the bank’s history. The company benefited when employees of different levels demonstrated leadership skills and bonded with customers.
Each of these problem-solving approaches embodied creative leadership to reinvent consumer relationships and promote operating speed and complexity. Anticipating the future, making plans that take the talents and insights of employees into consideration and building consumer bonds are creative approaches that promote organizational success.
Developing comprehensive leadership skills can begin by earning an online Master of Business Administration at Queens University of Charlotte, which ranks among the best universities in the South, according to U.S. News & World Report. The programmatic emphasis in Leadership allows you to explore and develop leadership abilities so you can envision, plan, and implement large-scale strategic initiatives in finance, operations management, marketing, and all areas of business.
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