5 Traits of the New Creative Leader

5 Traits of the New Creative Leader

Yesterday’s leadership skills will not work in today’s fast-moving and evolving world. Only creative leaders who are visionary and empathetic will succeed. Here are five things you can do to succeed as a creative leader:

Instead of commanding, coach your team and organization toward success. Don’t manage people, empower them. The know-how, experience, and solutions are often out there; it’s a matter of helping people discover them.

Cultivate respect by giving it, instead of demanding it. Know how to manage both success and failure.

Show graciousness in your management rather than greediness. Be humble about your successes and whenever possible, give someone else the opportunity to shine.

Why Are Creative Leaders So Rare?
9:26 AM Tuesday July 21, 2009

Tags:Creativity, India, Leadership

Recently, our Centre for India & Global Business at Cambridge University was privileged to host a talk by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India. Like millions of Indians, I hold Dr Kalam in high esteem. Not only is he an accomplished scientist who fathered India’s breakthrough space programs (including an unmanned moon mission), but he also embodies India’s diversity and openness: he served as India’s third Muslim president, and can recite by heart entire passages of the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita.

Dr Kalam’s lecture at our School was titled “Creative Leadership in the Global Knowledge Economy.” In his engaging talk, Dr Kalam overviewed the dramatic socio-economic and technological shifts occurring worldwide, as the geopolitical and economic gravity shifts from West to East, the pace of technological change accelerates, and the world grapples with the increasing scarcity of resources.

To thrive in this turbulent world, Dr Kalam argued that corporations as well as nations desperately need what he calls “creative leaders,” a new breed of visionary and empathetic leaders who act less as commanders and more as coaches, less as managers and more as facilitators, and who foster self-respect rather that demanding respect.

Drawing from his experience, Dr Kalam articulated eight key tenets of creative leadership that are critical for driving innovation and growth in the emerging global knowledge economy:

The leader must have a vision for the organization

The leader must have the passion to transform that vision into action

The leader must be able to travel into an unexplored path

The leader must know how to manage both success and failure

The leader must have the courage to make decisions

The leader should have nobility in management

Every action of the leader should be transparent

The leader must work with integrity and succeed with integrity

To illustrate his point, Dr Kalam cited leaders he has personally encountered who are/were imbued with these eight wisdom qualities. For instance, when India’s first satellite launch mission failed in 1979, the chairman of the Indian space agency Prof Satish Dhawan took full responsibility for the failure, even though Dr Kalam was actually the mission director. But the following year, when they successfully placed the first Indian-built satellite in orbit, Prof Dhawan didn’t attend the ensuing press conference; rather, he asked Dr Kalam to share the success story with the media, thus giving him full credit for the mission’s success.

As I was listening to Dr Kalam, I started counting with my fingers the leaders that I know — besides Dr Kalam — who actually embody these eight creative leadership attributes. I couldn’t count more than two or three! I was baffled. I am sure others in the audience conducted the same exercise and came to the same conclusion.

Indeed, as the world economy sank deeper into a recession over the last ten months, we got exposed to the utter lack of creative leadership across the corporate and political spheres. As the recession worsened, rather than making bold decisions and courageously acting on them, CEOs of leading Fortune 500 firms behaved like the captain of the Titanic: they took no timely action to save their sinking companies, and refused to assume an iota of blame for their management failure. Lack of transparency — let alone nobility — was rampant among leading financial institutions, which eventually led to their downfall. And recent political scandals starkly remind us of the utter lack of integrity across the entire political spectrum.

As we emerge from the economic recession (which I actually view as a ‘value recession’), I sincerely hope that corporations and citizens will elect business and political leaders who practice creative leadership with nobility and integrity. In particular, I wish Indian corporate leaders follow Dr Kalam’s recommendation to act less as commanders and more as facilitators; otherwise Indian CEOs will fail to ignite and harness the creative minds of the 550 million young Indians. Finally, I share Dr Kalam’s dream that business schools around the world cultivate creative leaders endowed with a moral compass that allows them to work with integrity — and succeed with integrity.

I am eager to hear from you whom you consider as creative leaders, and what steps your organization is taking to produce such leaders.

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