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.
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