What is a creative leader?

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Published on February 24, 2017 with No Comments

A creative leader is most of all interactive. Someone who strives to be “real,” who improvises, learns from mistakes and loves it. A creative leader is more like a jazz ensemble than an orchestra, which has a somewhat rigid structure and a conductor with a stick – which could be a metaphor for so much. A creative leader participates in a conversation rather than striving to preserve a rigid harmony. A creative leader is more open to criticism and takes risks. Creative leadership is like a design challenge.


These thoughts come to us from John Maeda, graphic designer, computer scientist, talker at TED, and current head of the Rhode Island School of Design. Maeda looks at progress and creative leadership as being at the intersection of art, design and technology. He hopes to transform the current thinking on education from Science, technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to STEAM – adding Art. In other words the former authoritarian approach with the leader at the top of the hierarchy is outmoded and it’s time for a creative approach where the leader is at the center of the organizational structure.

In addition to John Maeda, Ken Robinson, author of “Out of Minds: Learning to be Creative,” says that extreme financial pressure on the world’s economy makes creativity more urgent. “Creativity is not some optional extra. It’s a strategic issue.” Robinson cited a survey of 3,000 CEOs showed their top priority was to find ways to promote creativity in organizations. Notable companies such as Cisco have adopted a style of leadership that is decentralized in order to be more nimble. As Kingston sees it, we are not just a collection of leaders of creative industries and non-creative industries but rather we are the united leaders of American industries – oh, wait – that was another speech, but it’s similar to Kingston’s belief.

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