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Leaders as Creators

In this series on creativity within organizations, I am reposting this blog post from 2015. In it, I describe the role of leaders as creators.

An artist looks at their work in a totally different frame of mind than a mechanic does. The artist sees infinite possibility. The mechanic sees a problem to be solved. The artist has a vision. The mechanic has a job. The artist works in iterations, continuing to add to the creation what is needed. The mechanic works by elimination, until the source of the dysfunction is found. The artist creates, the mechanic fixes.

As a leader, you are often in the “mechanic mode”. People bring to you problems to be solved, work to be done, decisions to be made, dilemmas to be fixed, and that is a valuable and ever-present part of the role you play.


The Role of Creator

But how often do you play the role of creator? Of someone who can envision a better future and then find a way to make that vision a reality? How often do you paint a new canvas, rather than making do with the old one, no matter how tattered? How often do you imagine? Experiment? Push the boundaries? Ask what “could be” rather than dealing with “what is”?

The notion that leaders can be creators is a head scratcher for many. What indeed do leaders create?

At the North American Leadership Academy for the Society of International Business Fellows, I taught a session on creating as a leader. That group came up with this list of things that leaders create:

  • Vision
  • Structure
  • Values
  • Culture
  • Opportunities
  • Environment
  • Positive outcomes
  • Processes
  • Strategies
  • Objectives
  • Boundaries
  • Incentives
  • Standards
  • Teams
  • Networks
  • Products
  • Services
  • New Markets
  • Customer Experiences

If you recognize your power as a leader/creator, you approach your work differently. When you are in the “leader as creator” mode, you ask what you want to create. You shape, with intention and purpose, things like culture and values and team. You remain open to possibility and the power it brings. You take ownership and accountability for creating something of value – rather than playing victim to your circumstances.

Creating as a leader is infinitely more difficult than creating as a solitary artist, as there are people and processes and systems to navigate. But it is also infinitely more rewarding – as any leader who has created a compelling vision, a vibrant and healthy culture, or a strong set of core values knows.

If you are interested in learning how to create as a leader, you’ll want to read Chapters 4 to 7 in my book, The Leader’s Guide to Turbulent Times or book my workshop: A Seven Step Process for Organizational Creativity.

So I’m curious – what have you created as leader? What would you like to create?

Have you heard about LEAP? It’s a three-part methodology I created to help corporate individuals make the LEAP to independent consulting. Learn more by visiting!

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One Response

  1. Kris ~ Love this article – I will use the difference between creator and mechanic next week in our high school 7Habits Community Leadership Initiative at Dow AgroSciences here in Indy.

    Thanks for sharing, always great to read your ideas !

    Bill Campbell

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