Menu Close

Real leaders put creativity centre stage

Derek Hirst Alambra

It’s time to ditch outmoded management models in favour of embracing a leadership style that attracts, retains and encourages creative thinkers.


The modern economy is thought-powered. Writing for MIT Sloan Management Review, Amit S. Mukherjee says that where previous generations valued job security and pay over creative freedom, today’s digital-savvy employees want to be well paid for work that inspires and empassions.

Exposed to the ever-present risk of digital disruption, organisations need new ideas as never before. But if modern management is about attracting and retaining clever people, leadership methods must change.


Two management models dominate the current work environment:

1) Control model. Controllers employ call-centre style management practices – which use big data on employee activity to micromanage, and conduct retrospective appraisals, straitjacketing and alienating free-thinkers.

2) Empowerment model. Empowerers jettison rigid annual performance reviews in favour of more frequent conversations around future planning, staff development, and goal setting. This model is part way towards inspiring creativity but, the author argues, it must go further.


Intelligent people “know their worth, ignore corporate hierarchy, are well connected, and have low thresholds for boredom”. Unleashing your employees’ creativity should be your new imperative. The new leadership model requires you to adopt these five behaviours:

1) Stop telling people what to do. Pose questions like “What do you think?” and “Why?” to encourage creative discussion and let staff know their opinion matters.

2) Create the space for difference. Big data has its uses, but the complexity of the digital landscape also calls for flexibility and agility in thought and action. An organisational culture that imposes homogeneity across all its functions deters creative thinking. Creativity finds its inspiration in the ability of staff to express their ingenuity and flair for non-linear thinking.

3) Manage autonomy. Open-source communities know the value of allowing experts to contribute on their own terms. Your role is to challenge and encourage your staff, and to create a fertile ecosystem for cooperation between creatives at the top of their fields. You achieve this by providing the necessary coordination and communication.

4) Appoint people who think differently. “Too often, leaders seek people like themselves, and then are surprised their organisations can’t ‘think differently’.” Apple founder Steve Jobs knew the value of appointing specialists from a wide range of backgrounds. Strike statements like “must have done” and “must know” from job specs.

5) Question yourself. Inspiring creativity begins with questioning your own thinking. Ask yourself what you need to rethink, unlearn, and relearn.

Some firms aim to survive despite digital disruption, but by adopting a leadership model that turbocharges creativity, you’ll thrive because of it.

Source Article: Inspiring Employee Creativity
Author(s): Amit S Mukherjee