'What do I do when I work for a difficult boss, an autocrat, someone who squelches my creative endeavors?' - or any other variation that says, 'sure this workshop you're presenting sounds great, but it won't work in my world.' It's the most difficult question I receive when I present a workshop like The Creative Leader, because the hard reality is that there are no easy solutions to this difficult situation.
There are solutions, but one-size does not fit all circumstances. Each case is individual to the organization, the boss and the person asking the question. Thinking about it brings me back to the portion of the Leadership Dance workshop where I remind people that taking a job or joining and organization does not mean you give up all of your rights and responsibilities. In the Leadership Dance, I remind people that on the dance floor, if a leader isn't paying attention and tries to lead the follower into a move that is too difficult or potentially harmful to anyone on the dance floor, the follower is under no obligation to follow. The same is true in an organization.
Yes, every job I've ever known of has parts that we'd rather not do and rules we have to follow that seemed specifically designed to stop our creative impulses. In every job I've ever had, there have been moments when I was asked to do something I thought was headed in the wrong direction. But I've also understood that when people 'sit' in a different part of the organizational chart than I do, they often have a different picture of what the best solution might be, they are often more aware of important issues than I am, and much as I've hated to admit it at times, they have often made better decisions than I would have. And yet, there are lines that have to be drawn. We don't give up our own responsibility for our health, safety, values and ethics when we go to work for someone. Sometimes that refusal may mean we have to leave the organization. The more we have invested in an organization or the bigger our personal obligations, the harder it is refuse to follow the lead, but that doesn't relieve us of our responsibilities for ethical action.
Thus the answer to that difficult question is that each of us has to make a personal determination about the benefits and challenges of our individual work situation. What can we change? What conversations can we have with our supervisor? What do we love about the job that outweighs the challenges? When it is so bad that it is time to look for another position, as difficult as that may be? Questions in answer to a question - frustrating I know. While a friend or mentor or colleague may be able to help us analyze the situation, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, there is only one person who can give the ultimate answer to the question - the person who asked it has the answer all along.