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Leaders: what gets in the way of creativity?

One of the ways that it is “lonely at the top” as a leader is that people tend to look to you to innovate. 

Our people tend to avoid being creative, then blame the CEO for the lack of creativity or innovation in the workplace.

The new reality we are all facing calls for a whole new level of creativity, at all levels of the organization, which is difficult for all of us. We are social animals and creativity calls on us to develop ideas for which there is no precedent, and therefore no agreement among our social group. This exposes us to possible ridicule and rejection, which frequently stops us before we even start.  

In his book “The Courage to Create” Rollo May points out: 

“We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man’s land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness. To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.”

We are not talking here about aesthetic creativity, like designing a room or selecting a beautiful color scheme. Rather, we are talking about an entirely new creation, like the personal computer, the electric light bulb, or online retailing. The innovators who brought these new things into being faced ridicule and projections of certain failure for pursuing their “crazy ideas.”

Most of us have been able to function very successfully running our organizations without the need for “bringing something new into being.” We believe that day may be gone. 

Learning to be creative, and more importantly, to empower our teams to be creative is a skill required for success into the future. Equipping ourselves with this skill is no small feat, but it is doable. 

The bigger challenge is mustering the courage to do so. Again, quoting Rollo May:

“Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage, our fidelity becomes conformism."

The word courage comes from the same stem as the French word couer, meaning “heart.” Thus, just as one’s heart, by pumping blood to one’s arms, legs, and brain enables all the other physical organs to function, so courage makes possible all the psychological virtues. Without courage, other values wither away into mere facsimiles of virtue.”

Creating a culture in your organization that fosters the courage to create requires intentional, conscious thought, discussion, actions and habits. It is the ultimate example of “(re)building the plane while flying.”  The “comfort zone” that we all have operated in until now will impede such change. Yet, change we must; we must build this capacity into our personal and organizational DNA.

We have assembled a group of mission focused CEOs from who value integrity and personal growth to share their ideas about the post pandemic world we must adapt to in order to thrive. 

If you are interested, you can simply reply to this email with questions or comments. Or if you’d like to chat about it, click here (Brad or Tom) to set up a 30-minute appointment.


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