Ask HR Bartender: Hiring Creative Types

by Sharlyn Lauby on April 22, 2012

I got this question from a reader about “creative” people:

Do you find that many creatives are looked over for leadership roles simply because of the stigma associated with being creative? I know this article by Susan Cain on The Power of Introverts blog was a great read for me and made me feel there is hope.

First, let me say the reader was right that Susan Cain’s post on creative people being seen as leaders is awesome. Definitely worth checking out.

creative, creativity, leadership, leader, business, introverts, Deirdre Honner

I can’t really say there’s a stigma associated with being creative. I can tell you there’s often a stigma associated with being eccentric at work. Which is something different and often mislabeled as “being creative.” This is where misunderstandings can start. I also believe there are a few universal truths about creativity and leadership:

  • Companies realize BOTH creativity and leadership are essential for business success. If not, they should.
  • And on some level, companies want every employee to possess BOTH creativity and leadership. Again, if not, they should!

You can see where this is going. There’s a disconnect. Unfortunately, I wonder if it’s a company-created situation.  For example, organizations don’t create work environments that encourage creativity. Nor do they recognize the leadership potential in each employee. Then everyone acts surprised when the creativity and leadership don’t emerge. Like it’s supposed to happen just by osmosis or something.

On the other hand, individuals need to channel creativity within the scope of the business. It might sound counter intuitive but here’s an example:

One of my very first jobs was being an artist. Yep, a real artist with a studio and everything. I made serigraphs, etchings and paper sculptures. When people asked me about my art and what inspired me, I replied, “I don’t make what I personally like; I make what sells.” Get it? I’m not Salvador Dali. I made artwork that people thought was artistically appealing and willing to spend money to have it in their office, boardroom, etc.

So the answer to the question is, companies need to create cultures that support creativity. Individuals need to train their creative spirit to be relevant in the context of business. And both need to learn and demonstrate the principles of leadership in their daily interactions.

We all have a role and responsibility to play in the business. Each of us must be given the task and allowed to complete it.

Image courtesy of Deirdre Honner

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RMSmithJr April 22, 2012 at 7:29 am

Two great points:
1. “I don’t make what I personally like; I make what sells.”
2. Individuals need to train their creative spirit to be relevant in the context of business.

These two points represent the blurred boundary between profession and passion. Continuous improvement is an act of creativity. When I speak to this during new hire orientation I say, “This presentation is the best one yet, but not as good as the next one.” The tweaks are subtle acts of creativity, change isn’t made for the sake of change.

One of my companies core values is continuous improvement. This is part of our culture that keeps us success in the capital economy, which is distinctly separate from the consumer and creative economies.
RMSmithJr recently posted..From The Crade To The Grave

Sharlyn Lauby April 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

Very nicely said about the connection between creativity and improvement. Thanks!

Jocelyn Aucoin April 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Great topic! I don’t know that creatives and leaders will ever truly be whispered in the same breath, purely based on the places that people generally tend to assume their minds operate from – creatives being right brained, leaders left. A great article ran recently on a high up at Mountain Dew.. I can’t remember her name or where the article ran. But in the interview, she spoke about how she led in a way I think a lot of people could stand to learn from – sighting her creativity as strength numero uno! Eccentricty is a trait that oft goes hand in hand with creatives and only needs to be harnessed – reigned in, if you will.

But I think you only need to look as far as the Mountain Dew brand to know that that is likely a company with a creative culture – it’s supported externally, so it’s likely supported internally as well. More companies could stand for attitudes like these. Out of the box thinkers are highly undervalued pieces to our puzzles!

Thanks again for this thought-provoking post, Sharlyn!
Jocelyn Aucoin recently posted..Surviving Performance Reviews: The Inward Check

Sharlyn Lauby April 25, 2012 at 9:24 am

Thanks for the comment Jocelyn. You’ve peaked my interest with the Mountain Dew article. I’ll have to search for it.

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