Creative Leadership

Years ago, a boss praised my creative talents in my role as leader. I scoffed inside, telling myself that I was the least creative person in any room. “I just have great, innovative employees,” I told him. Then, to reinforce my believe that I was lacking in that department, I married a highly artistic woman. Next to her, I was a Milk Dud compared to her Godiva Chocolates!

Creative Visionary vs. Re-visionary

whirligigWhen my neighbor placed a small, multicolored whirligig in his front yard, the kind that catches the wind and reflects the light when it spins, I cursed myself for not having come up with the idea of something so simple and yet beautiful.

While I told myself I had no special creative talents, I did have two other resources: free time (At the time, I called it “the gift of unemployment”), and a very messy garage. In that garage, I found a metal post, a couple of broken down bikes, and a few pieces of thin sheet metal.

Within a week, I planted my whirligig in the front yard.

My wife told me that while I might not have had the “vision” to create the wind, mold the bike wheels, or forge the steel sheets, I had a remarkable gift for “re-visioning” something good and making it great.

Your 1% Contribution

Thinking back to my corporate days, I remembered how my team would resolve a problem by developing brilliant, creative solutions. While I told myself that they were the true artists, I remember what I did before they finished polishing their idea: I added my 1%. No, I can’t take credit for the 99%, but thinking back, my 1% creative contribution gave our work that 100% that every team dreams of reaching.

If you’re a leader, resist the urge that you need to be Steve Jobs. There was only one, and you’re not him. (Which is good, because he’s dead). But that doesn’t mean you can’t re-vision, re-purpose, and add your 1% to your creative assignments.

Remember the words of Lionel Trilling:
Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.

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