Last week I wrote about curiosity. Over the past few years, I’ve come to understand that curiosity’s companion, creativity, is also an essential part of effective leadership.
I know how some of you are reacting as you read that because I’ve seen and heard so many reactions in workshops when I bring up this topic. And, to be honest, those scoffing noises would have been coming from me not so long ago. Some time ago I said to Peter, my husband, that I was not creative and he looked at me in surprise, saying ‘when someone brings you a problem you come up with 15 different solutions; you’re one of the most creative people I know.’ My response was that’s not creativity, that’s just problem-solving. Of course, what is obvious in this story to everyone but me is that we have to be creative to solve problems! I share this story now, and when I teach my workshop on Creative Leadership, because it is just one example of the many ways we define creativity so that it doesn’t apply to us.
Thanks to Peter’s insights and the many books of Julia Cameron, I’ve come to understand creativity in a much broader way and to agree with Cameron that all of us are creative. Some of us squelch aspects of it, some of us nurture it, but all of us have creativity, are creative. In her book Walking in the World: The Practical Art of Creativity, (notice the word in the subtitle, Practical, that’s putting creativity to work), Cameron says this, “Creativity is inspiration coupled with initiative…”* Sounds like another good definition for good leadership.
Like curiosity, we need creativity in our organizations. We need people to wonder, we need people who are willing to imagine new ways to do tasks, new ways to be together, new ways to serve. Part of the job of a leader is to imagine the way things could be – we usually call that having vision – but it sounds like creativity to me. Part of the job of a leader is creating (there’s that word again) an environment that encourages curiosity and imagining and wondering. Instead of finding that scary, a true leader is willing to put some energy behind new possibilities. A true leader might even get out of the way and let others initiate change.
Have you felt an urge to be creative lately? Did you squelch it or nurture it? If you find yourself squelching your creativity, Julia Cameron suggests we try one little change that we’ve been wanting to make. It could be a new picture in your home, a new color in your wardrobe or a new way of organizing your desk. It’s all creativity. Remember what movie director Frank Capra said, “A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.” So next time, listen carefully to what your creativity is trying to tell you. I truly believe that bringing our creative selves to our organizational life will, over time, improve life for everyone.
Keep dancing (and creating),
*Walking in the World: The Practical Art of Creativity, Julia Cameron, 2002