Although a leader’s ability to lead can be greatly enhanced by a creative followership, it requires a sensitive and personally secure leader to nurture another’s creativity because the outcome of such creativity must be openly shared. An effective leader understands that creativity requires the freedom of imagination as well as time to relax and read, have discussions with colleagues, and experiment. After all, the greatest creativity often comes in the quietude of an unguarded moment, often when it is least expected. No one, however, can be creative on command or under the pressure of timelines.
Creativity among a leader’s followership can be encouraged by appropriate recognition, such as praise before a person’s peers. Such recognition can also be through a public explanation of how the idea is going to be implemented, which demonstrates a leader’s sincerity in listening to an idea, grasping its essence, giving credit where credit is truly due, and acting.
Effective leaders understand that creativity requires that a creator be allowed—even encouraged—to risk making mistakes and failing because of them. One must be willing to think of creativity as having a rate of failure that is at least twice the rate of success. This is but saying that if you are right more than half the time, you are ahead of the game.
Insecure leaders cannot handle such open-ended risk and usually kill creativity among their followers. One way to kill creativity is to encourage people to be creative, and then sit on their ideas without extending the slightest feedback to those who offer them. Months later, this kind of leader wonders where all the ideas are.
Another way leaders kill creativity is by humiliating a person who puts forth an idea (often before their peers): “This idea won’t work; it’s too ‘pie in the sky.’ Come on, get real; be practical. I want something for today’s world, not something for fantasy land.”
And then there are the leaders who act like mental parasites. They think that just because they asked for the ideas they should get all the credit. They take someone else’s wonderful idea and sell it as their own. If the idea is greeted with applause, they might mumble that they don’t deserve all the credit, but they are at the same time very secretive when it comes to sharing any of it. On the other hand, should the idea bomb, they are very quick to give credit where credit is due. Such people can use a lesson from Zen cooking.
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Text © by Chris Maser, 2010. All rights reserved.
This article is excerpted from my 1998 book, Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Development. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL. 235 pp. It is updated in my 2012 book, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit my website.