How Creativity Helps You be a Better Leader

When you hear the word ‘creativity,’ what comes to mind? Paintbrushes and canvas? Pens and paper? Needles and thread? While these objects are related to creativity, they are merely tools. The ability (or inability) to use them does not define one’s level of creativity.

Creativity, as it’s defined, is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.” In other words, just as an artist is able to use his creativity to give birth to meaningful new ideas or form on canvas, a leader is able to use the resources accessible to her business in such a way that allows her to create a desirable offering for the marketplace and a clear distinction from the competition.

Creativity is so important to leadership roles, in fact, FastCompany has a list for the 100 Most Creative People in Business. And, in a recent study by IBM that included over 1,500 corporate heads and leaders from 60 nations and 33 industries, participants were asked about the primary driver in managing today’s companies. About 60% of respondents said creativity is the most important leadership quality to own.

You may ask why it carries such clout; and the best way to answer that is to look at some examples of how you can put creativity to use.

In offering: Creative leaders are able to read their audience and determine the products and services that need to be offered in order to meet the right needs. You must listen and observe, and then once you’ve examined what’s available in the market, you go on to develop creative ideas to fill in the holes with your unique products and services.

In development: Taking your products and services from ideas to development should include the wherewithal to do so creatively, differently, and unique to your brand. Even if there are multiple products like it on the market, a creative development process can deliver something with distinction. Don’t accept the mold. Create a new one. Debunking the standard is how companies have breakthroughs in R&D.

In marketing: How can you position your business so that your efforts capture real attention and interest? It takes creative tactics. Don’t do what everyone else is doing in advertising. Exploit the power of your brand by positioning it in a way only it can be positioned.

In partnering: M&A’s are old school, but they don’t have to be. The merger of your business with another has never been done before, and therefore presents a totally new opportunity to do it differently…to do it better. CEOs are wising to this fact. According to PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2014, “57% of U.S. CEOs would like to or have plans to change M&A approaches as they look to reinvent capabilities across a number of functions.” Leverage the opportunity not to create more of the same, but to create something awesome with the combined powers now accessible to you.

In management: A creative leader knows how to tap the resources available to him or her in such a way it brings out the best capabilities and produces the best results. Focus on developing an exclusive company culture that’s directly tied to your brand. Know your employees and how to motivate them in ways that tap and extract their creativity as well. This, when used in conjunction with the other four creative factors, will make for a buzz-worthy brand, and a CEO that’s at least that.

If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” – Vincent Van Gogh

Go, be creative.