Expert Perspective from Grahall’s OmniMedia Editorial Board
We enjoyed and for the most part agree with the recent blog in Forbes by Chunka Mui “Are the People in Your Organization Too Smart to be Creative?” It may seem incongruous that scholarly research “in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by Jennifer Mueller, Jack Goncalo, and Dishan Kamdar found that open expression of creative ideas was negatively correlated with perceptions of leadership potential” while studies of CEO’s by PWC found that “…innovation was a key focal point.” IBM found that creativity was “…the most important leadership quality”.
What that shows is that CEO’s either 1) don’t know themselves or their biases very well, or 2) their definitions of creativity and innovation differ for themselves and their possible successors. CEOs may hold the belief that “my type of creativity and innovation is ‘good’ and yours is ‘bad’”. Let’s face it, it’s very hard to see oneself objectively, perhaps especially if you are a hard driving, effective CEO.
But it is not as simple as may be depicted by the research and the studies. Like cooking, where it’s not just the ingredients that result in a great dish, but the quality of ingredients, the way they are handled, and the skill of the chef and the palate of the diner that all contribute to success, leadership is more than just creativity. Our experience shows that the most creative leaders also demonstrate other characteristics some positive and some not so. At the risk of being labeled “prescriptive”, we advise not to isolate on just the competency “creative” is simplistic and the world is of course not.
We doubt there are many people who would disagree with Mui’s statement that “…we are in an era of great complexity; creative leaders are needed to break the status quo and respond to the competitive opportunities and challenges of disruptive change.” No CEO would argue against this statement either. What they could argue, though, is that they embody those characteristics and are those creative leaders.
Clearly there is a need for change somewhere. Leaders need to connect with their own competencies (or lack thereof) and be able to clearly see all the necessary competencies in others. We agree, as Mui’s writes: “For any organization trying to reinvent itself, that means a fair amount of work has to be done just to get started.” In other words, taking a look beyond that glowing image to really see oneself.
The place to start, we believe, is ensuring that the competency models appropriately recognize and assess important and unique talents and capabilities in potential leaders. As we said in our blog: “In His Own Image”: “Where competency models and the process by which they are evaluated lack objectivity, are stagnant or simply reinforce the status quo, they can do a serious disservice to any company.”
It is also important to remember as we said on our blog “Leading from the Top”: “Leadership is highly situational and cannot be defined in a limited way. Like an animate organism, a company goes through a lifecycle that bring changes. From start up to decline and all the steps in between, the company’s leaders will help to dictate continued success (or failure). The characteristics of the individual who will effectively lead a start-up differ from those of the individual who will effectively lead a mature organization. If the leader or the competency models used to determine leadership development do not evolve, the company will suffer.”