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Creative Leadership
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by Sooraj Mittal, Hedda Pahlson-Moller, Evalueserve Leadership

Evalueserve is Knowledge Partner of the Summit for the Future

Is leadership limited to the ability of a person to influence other people in getting things done, above their normal standard and quality, or does the society need a new breed of leaders who can evolve on a continuous basis, addressing new challenges?

Traditionally, leaders have been known to possess the ability to motivate people, identifying their strengths, nurturing them and making their team function in a synthesized manner, thereby delivering up to its true potential. However, over a period of time societies and systems evolved and so have the dynamics of leadership.

Over a period of time, many nations have struggled for independence, apartheid, etc while, most resorted to violent means to achieve their cause, leading to mass destruction on both sides. But, only a few creative leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela resolved such issues through their revolutionary idea of non-violence. Thereby, not only helping attain the objective but also creating an example and inspiration for the coming generations that there is always a non-conventional and perhaps a less traveled path.

There are three sets of situations from where a leader can be identified or nurtured:

  • A person possessing a certain skill set and has the ability to take up the leadership role
  • Lack or absence of proper leadership or certainly a crisis situation brings out extraordinary leadership skills to handle the situation
  • People who choose to become leaders constantly try to develop the required skill set
As the world becomes flat, it has become a level playing field for all the players, irrespective of the geography, cast or creed. The availability of similar tangible resources to all the players has made the environment into a place of cutthroat competition. In order to develop in such a competitive environment companies have to heavily rely on the intellectual capital, primarily present in the form of its employees. They need leaders who can guide and bring out the best from its human capital.

Their role is not limited to merely guiding people in the right direction. They require creative leaders, who do not only limit their role to addressing problems through novel solutions, but by giving new viewpoints on how to resolve problems in the future as well.

This brings us to a pertinent question - can someone be taught how to think creatively? Organizations spend heavily on training their employees, especially training potential leaders and inculcating leadership values. However, this does not ensure imagination, creativity or ethical behavior in the audience. These qualities develop over a period of time with experience and exposure to various kinds of problems. In addition, it also requires a conscious effort on the part of the individual to grow in that direction.

Creative leaders can be broadly segregated as Re-definers and Re-directors. The former being those who introduce a new dimension to existing ideas (such as Bill Gates redefining the computer), while the latter could be those who find a new way of working (like what Henry Ford did when he introduced the assembly line production system).

Before any organization/society demands for a creative leader, it should ensure that an environment is created, where such a leader can be identified and groomed. Society needs to be flexible in terms of accepting new ideas.

For instance, at 3M, scientists spend almost 15% of their time on personal activities. As a result, Fry, one of the scientists, invented the simple, yet innovative, 'Post-its'! During his free time, Fry used to sing at the church; however whenever he used small paper pieces as bookmarks, they would invariably fall. Fry recalled a weak adhesive developed by his company - he used it to develop easily detachable bookmarks, which we now see at homes and offices alike.

Essentially, the difference between a leader and a creative leader can be compared to the difference between Subash Chandra Bose, an extremist, and Mahatma Gandhi, a Moderate. They hold a significant place in the history books, as both had fought against the colonial rule of the British Empire. Yet both had adopted different ways to address the problem. While, Bose believed in the conventional way of violence (an eye for an eye), Mahatma addressed the problem by means of non-violence and non-cooperation movements. As a result, the approach adopted by Bose, resulted in fear amongst the British for some period of time and had a short-term impact on the people. While, the approach adopted by Mahatma Gandhi had a long lasting impact on British as well as the common public, leading to a united effort to achieve independence for the nation.

A society, as we know it, combines the likes of people from varied backgrounds, having differing skill-sets and divergent thoughts. Collective leadership ensures that this multicultural society moves in a cohesive and collective manner to attain the defined objectives into realistic and attainable goals. Today's world is very chaotic and complex. The skill set required to address these problems are not present in one person. Moreover, the problems are not just limited to one system or society. Therefore, in order to address such problems a collective effort is required. For instance, the war against terrorism has to be a collective effort on part of all the nations across the globe, as the problem is not just limited to the US or India. It has an equal chance of striking any nation at any given moment.

For instance, the defense force of a country would comprise of the Army, Navy and the Airforce. All have their own skill set and strategic importance to the security of a nation. Yet, when it comes to a war, a collective effort is required from all the three arms of win the battle.

If the role of the leader has evolved, so have team dynamics. No longer can a group/department of people be necessarily classified as a team. These are a set of individuals, who are doing the job assigned to them. Essentially, a team is a group of people who collectively collaborate to achieve one predefined objective.

The relationship of a leader with his/her team has evolved from a supervisory role to a multi-tasking role. The leader is a guide, mentor, motivator as well as a team member. Instead of moving ahead of the team, he/she has to move along with it. More than dependence, it is now a question of synergies and inter-dependence.

The only thing, which is constant, is change, over a period of time societies have evolved and so has the way in which people think and see each other. Yet the same old concepts still exist, although the ways they are handled and demanded by the society have evolved. From a leader who leads from the front and keeps people motivated, to a leader who can provide innovative solutions to new set of problems.

You can find more about Summit for the Future in the Books, Articles and Links section.


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