Organizations value creativity in solving problems and innovating solutions and workflows. When creativity is unleashed, organizations stay ahead of the curve and, likely, will lead ahead of competitors and market shifts. Disrupt or be disrupted.

What seems to happen next is complexity. Leaders enter the picture with a goal of driving creativity and innovation. The “driving” usually entails being driven over.

  • Demands are high and only certain opinions matter.innovative leadership
  • Brainstorming becomes an exercise in futility and inaction.
  • Talking in circles wears people out, and nothing tangible happens.

A new study by Dina Krasikova, assistant professor of management at The University of Texas at San Antonio, says to gain creativity, be confident. “When leaders feel confident that they can produce creative outcomes, their subordinates become more creative. It’s that simple.”

Simple. The new Field of Dreams approach to creativity and innovation – Be confident and creativity will come.

Dina adds in a few more elements to gain creative ideas. My summary of these are:

  1. Ensure clear roles and communication.
  2. Develop the right environment (i.e., culture).
  3. Lead with creativity and confidence – It’s contagious.
  4. Experience creates confidence in creativity.

Each element sounds straightforward. However, to gain these points, it takes creativity. Doing just the usual things will produce just the usual results.

Three Ways to Be an Innovative Leader

To push the envelope (maybe), here are three ideas on how to be an innovative leader:

1 – Require team members to participate in a community project.

Experience plays a key role in creating confidence in being creative. Outside of work, individuals may feel like they have more open opportunities to think outside the box. Being outside the office may open the box of creativity within individuals.

Within any given city, there are many different social good or charitable organizations. Each organization likely has a challenge to resolve. The challenges can include marketing campaigns to raise new awareness, fundraising to extend impact, or scaling operations to meet new demands. Whatever the challenge, having team members go in to facilitate change and lead toward certain results creates experiences in creativity.

New experiences can create greater confidence in innovative talents, which can then reinforce and expand opportunities within your department, team, and business.

Why go outside? The number one reason is to shed any preconceptions that may exist within your organization. An individual can feel unfettered outside their own organizational comfort zone.

2 – Show confidence in the future state, not the current state.

As a leader, we need to be more confident in the unknown future state than the known present state. Clarity of why staying in the current state is too risky will instill confidence in the work that needs to be done to create a new, better future. Too often, we dwell in our current circumstances, creating negative attitudes and outlooks. With a sense of optimism about a better future state, team members will get unstuck and begin to think in refreshed ways.

The underlying foundation here is purpose. Expressing purpose of projects with extreme clarity will be a motivating factor. Purpose is not a fuzzy idea. Purpose is concrete, stating why we cannot stay at Point A and why Point V will be better. Purpose and a meaningful future spark creative mindsets and spirited actions.

3 – Start a design thinking conversation or lead a design thinking training class.

Design thinking has gained the attention it deserves. What is design thinking? From the president and CEO at IDEO, a design company:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

If we want our team members to think differently, then we should lead conversations and offer training on how to do just that. We can set the example, the best way to lead! Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Start a conversation with a group about design thinking concepts and how to apply them in your business. There are books available on this topic, so start a book club in your company. Stanford offers an online 90-minute crash course on design thinking. Starting does not have to be expensive, so never use that as an excuse!
  • Attend a design thinking training course and bring the ideas back to your organization. Train your team on what you learned and involve them in a design thinking initiative. By doing this, they gain experience with you, establishing the necessary confidence to be creative in other projects.

Innovative Leadership

The status quo is worse than standing still; it is falling backward. Nothing stands still anymore. To trigger innovative leadership, we need to be the example. To create well, we need to innovate and ignite a culture of creativity.

Demonstrating confidence in innovative leadership is simple. We just need to take a step forward. Better than this, we need to take the leap and dance forward! A creative leap and dance will generate more excitement than simply walking.

What actions would you add to trigger innovative leadership in your organization?


Special thanks to the Center for BrainHealth for prompting this question.