I hate to outline things that may generally be true of what some would consider “creative” leaders, because I don’t want that to misconstrued as me positing that some humans are creative and others aren’t. I don’t think that at all.
But while I think all of us have the capacity and ability to be creative in our own ways, I think some people have more of a natural bent in that direction. That’s more their default mode than anything else. It’s a more pronounced trait in some than in others, just like any other can be.
Here are a few I was chewing on. Please feel free to add your own to the list.
1. Creative leaders may be somewhat (or very) rebellious, but in a good way, if that makes sense. They’re rebellious in that they tend to be uncomfortable with traditional rules and conventions. They want to do new things, or at least old things in new ways.
What I’m not saying: Creative leaders get to be obstinate jackasses. I don’t care if you think you’re Pablo freaking Picasso, it’s going to be harder to be creative when someone has judo chopped you in the windpipe because of your incessant and jackass-ish obstinacy.
2. Creative leaders are ambitious, but in any number of ways. Ambition can take many forms; some of them attractive, others, not so much. It could be influence, team success, need for recognition, need for adulation, etc. This one can go either way. I feel like I’m about to give “the talk” to Luke Skywalker about the Force and the Dark Side. Sorry, Andy Janning, no such luck today.
3. The make associations others wouldn’t. You might see this especially clearly when creative leaders have locked their minds on some dilemma or quandary. They’re imaginative, sometimes playful, and general have oodles of ideas, many of which leave you scratching your head wondering if they were serious or not. And then three seconds later you realize they might be accidentally brilliant.
4. Their minds are like, a roller coaster baby baby, I wanna ride. (90’s Red Hot Chili Peppers reference free of charge) Some studies have shown that creatives may have a greater tendency to experience emotions more intensely and have more fluctuations in moods and emotional state. Translation: They might be moody. They can also have self-confidence issues.
5. Details, deatils. Sometimes creative folks may need to some help from the more put-together among us to actually fill in the details and take a project all the way across the finish line because Mr. Rollercoaster hopped in line for a different ride already before that annoying teenager gave him permission to unbuckle from the one he was on.
6. They want to kick ass (when they’re not being moody little beyonces as mentioned above). Their creativity is often kicked into gear because they’re trying to accomplish something, solve a problem. They feel a need — a real need — to find a way to solve a thing once they’ve put their mind to it.
7. Mental stamina. Related to the above, they can have bursts of creative mental energy that allows them to focus for extended periods of time on a given conundrum or preoccupation.
I’m kidding. (I hope) They’re often flexible. They tend to roll with the punches and adapt as they’re rolling. Many times they’ll be able to see different aspects of issues and will throw out options that sound ridiculous at first, but then….boom. Oh? The situation just changed? Woohoo! Another chance to be creative.
Why does it matter? If our workplaces are truly habitats for humans, then it’s super important for us to work hard to understand the different sorts of folks with whom we get to work every day. Those oddball creative people are no different. Well, actually, I guess they kind of are. But that’s a good thing.