Creative Leadership for 21st Century Success

BY Nido Qubein
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It takes a creative mind to exercise leadership in the 21st century. In fact, it’s not enough for the leader to be creative. The people who are led must also be taught to be creative.

If change is the norm for this century, then innovation is the engine of change and knowledge is its fuel. If all the knowledge in your company is stored in just one brain, then you’re going to be running on empty pretty quick. Successful organizations will be those that spread knowledge throughout all levels and encourage people at all levels to apply that knowledge in creative ways.

When the leader hogs all the knowledge, then nobody knows what to do until the leader gives the word. Creative leaders don’t tell people what to do; they help people decide for themselves what to do.

Here’s my definition of modern leadership: “A process by which management creates an environment in which people voluntarily align their efforts toward common objectives.”

This calls for a corporate vision – a mental picture of the future as the people in the corporation would like to see it. Effective leaders align their personal visions with the corporate vision and help others in the company to do the same.

Creative leaders expect excellence in those around them, and they make those expectations known. They invite people to speak up, and they listen and respond to those who do.

Creative leaders are not guardians of the status quo. They foster a climate in which the search for quality and better methods becomes a way of life.

Creative leaders don’t bark orders. They use positive reinforcement to influence people toward the behavior they desire.

Creative leaders don’t isolate themselves from the people they lead. They create a sense of family by mingling with them, becoming acquainted with their problems and concerns, and looking for ways to help them.

Creative leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers and don’t try to do it all themselves. They ask for information and advice before making decisions, and make full use of the talents and skills of those around them.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a “born leader.” The traits that make good leaders can be taught. I know. I’ve been teaching these traits for years and I’ve seen many a person whose leadership blossomed once liberated from the old, restrictive environment and challenged to exercise creativity.