“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration.”
– Robin. S. Sharma
We are living in complex, uncertain and volatile world where human skills such as empathy, creativity and complex problem solving are the most in-demand leadership qualities today. I had a chance to attend a one-day intensive course called Creative Leadership offered by CityDrivers. The trainer of the program was Eleonora Carnasa who is a founder of the design and innovation agency Fabrica 360.
During the day Carnasa talked about how to get the right leadership mind-set with the most essential skills of today: systems thinking, design thinking, creativity and strategic design. By taking the course, my goal was to learn what a Creative Leadership is and how it can be applied to my daily work and life. Here are my key take-aways from the day.
What is Creative Leadership?
“Creative leadership is the ability to create and realize innovative solutions especially in the face of structurally complex or changing situations.”
– Fabrica 360
The quotation summarizes the definition for Creative Leadership quite well. During the day Eleonora opened the subject in more detail and presented three core Creative Leadership focus areas: empathy, clarity and creativity. These are the baseline for Creative Leadership, creating a holistic playground for organisational and personal development.
Leadership is all about empathy. It is about to be able to understand people and have the ability to step someone else’s shoes. Eleonora gave examples how a leader can cultivate empathy in their teams:
- Empathy causes empathy – Ability to feel emotions is what triggers emotions in others. If you let yourself be vulnerable, it is genuinely easier to connect with someone.
- Be present – Everyone are looking for being validated, seen and head. Leader´s job is to help others know they matter.
- Catch an invitation for empathy – Catch every smile, tear, frown and eye roll. When you notice them you can shift your behaviour and be present.
- Go out there – It is hard to get a perspective if you sit at the office every day. To better understand who you are collaborating with, go to them and observe their routines.
I think everyone in a team can cultivate empathy, not just the leader. Everyone can be present by asking their co-worker how she is doing and be genuinely interested in her reply. If she sees that you care, she can open up about what might be bothering her and what ideas she might have. This creates trust among the team members and confirms the team spirit.
In leadership clarity is a critical component of success. We are living in a constant state of change and chaos is present every day. To create the optimal environment for innovation it requires clarity from the leader. How the leader can bring clarity into the team? Here are few points what Eleonora pointed out:
- Clear vision – Leader and the team get lost if they don´t know where they are going. Knowing and communicating the direction where the team is heading is crucial for the success.
- Meaningful values – Core values guide the team in the right direction. Communicating the core values and explaining how the team is benefiting from the values creates clarity
- Create expectations – Clarity of goals and objectives are vital part of the success. This way the team knows where to focus on and that way effectiveness increases.
- Constructive feedback – Everyone make mistakes, but criticism usually don´t help to fix them. Feedback can be done in a way that allows the team to learn and improve, so that next time they know how to avoid mistakes.
I have noticed that sometimes we have so many great ideas that we forget to focus on our actual goal. I think that focusing into right matters are the key element for success. It is great when a leader brings clarity to the table, tasks and roles become into focus and the team forms one solid unit.
I´ve been wondering what is creativity in this context. Eleonora brought up a quotation from Ken Robinson that summarises the definition of creativity quite well: “Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it´s produced the most extraordinary results in human culture”. What creates creativity in teams? I think Eleonora pointed out two most important points how a leader can nurture creativity:
- Embrace diversity – Diversity at workplace is the key for creativity. Multidisciplinary teams create diverse ideas. If a leader can create a safe environment, it will encourage everyone challenge shared ideas and offer their own.
- Encourage failures – Fear of failure can hinder creativity, that´s why it is important that a leader encourages to fail in that manner that the team will learn from it.
I think leader´s core role is that he can facilitate creativity in others. Meaning that leader encourages and finds the way how everyone can get creativity out from themselves. The highlight of the course was the Superpowers Card Deck, introduced by Carnasa. In my opinion the card deck is a great concrete tool how team members can discover their strengths and that way cultivate their creativity.
Superpowers Card Deck
We played with the cards in the lecture and the cards helped to discover my superpower – what I do better than anyone else on the team. When knowing my own superpower it is easier to activate those powers and be at your best. I´m definitely presenting these cards to my team. If you want to get more information about the superpowers and order the Superpowers Card Deck, here is the link: https://superpowers.sypartners.com/
To sum it up, this one day intensive course opened up the secrets of the Creative Leadership and helped me to find effective ways for building empathy, clarity and creativity in my team. I learnt that when all the team members know and use their superpowers it will clarify the strengths of the whole team. Together we are more.
If you are more interested in the subject, here are few book recommendations I got from the lecture:
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – The book explains the two systems that drive the way we think and what effects on our behaviour. System 1 is emotional, intuitive fast and System 2 is more logical and slower.
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle – The book offers a roadmap for creating an environment where problems get solved, expectations are exceeded and innovation flourishes.
Build It: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement by Glenn Elliott & Debra Corey – The book provides a practical approach to improving employee engagement through ‘The Employee Engagement Bridge’ – model.
Written by: Marianne Kuokkanen