Leadership: The next creative industry

When was the last time you saw yourself as creative?
As a child when you built a cubby house or created something fun out of raw materials? Or when you did an A Level in Art as part of your broad-spectrum education before tapering off into a ‘sensible’ career option at university? Make no mistake, hospitality is full of creatives; a tag often given to chefs and other artistes in the spotlight of the food and beverage world. Particularly in the UK, the cultural focus on the arts as an industry, as inspiring and fabulous as it is, often results in the conclusion that these are the creative icons of the universe and the rest of us are just getting on with the logical, pragmatic and realistic. Unfortunately, this perception is a serious impediment to meeting the challenge of disruption head on and needs to change, urgently and forever.

First things first: we are all creative. Oh yes, we are. The key point is that we have not developed the ability to align our creative attributes with our work lives. The reason? It’s all to do with the progressive loss of individuality that is drummed into us as we evolve our careers. Oh yes, it is. If you have that nagging feeling you have kept quiet too long, just gone with the flow or simply raced along on the promotional journey to something bigger, better and fast, I think you might be wondering what happened to the real you right about now in this sea of ambiguity and disruption. For now is the time to dispense with these etiquettes and accept the point that there is no boundary with work and life; these two facets are intrinsically linked and we have been dumbing down our real selves to ‘get ahead’ to varying degrees for a long time.

Take health and fitness as a wonderful contrast to the world of work. No boundaries here for those prone to the pursuit of excellence including the ability to develop terrific resilience and focus. That blood pumping, adrenalin inducing challenge is a gateway to seeing yourself in all your potential glory and requires problem-solving, incremental progression and ambitious goals to be successful. Apply this to work and you have essentially cracked the code. In this space, there are no limits: you push yourself forward no matter what, and this is exactly what it takes to bring creativity to leading change. So, it’s time to stop kidding ourselves about the work, life, balance, different face- for-work mantra that you’ve been believing and practising, to some extent, your whole working life 

The essence of values based change is that the problem is, you don’t know what the problem is. This doesn’t mean change is unattainable, it means that the outcomes you get are never necessarily the ones you intended and that the variables coming your way are unknown. It is a calling card for leadership that is completely emotionally engaged and passionate, curious as to the inevitable curve balls and constantly problem solving to make choices in any range of circumstance. Your mindset needs to be focused, but aligned with your individual interpretation of the why of change. A bit of your soul needs to become part of the journey and this lightbulb going on will push you to build the energy, pace and adaptability needed to drive towards the future state.

To develop creativity a leader needs to work way through a degree of unlearning and build a new mindset aligned to a wholly new paradigm: 

  1. Accept, understand and be cognisant of the amazing, beautiful human you are. We need these unique qualities to be worn openly and honestly every single day you front up to lead in the world of change. It’s the differences in our stories and the qualities we have as a result of our journey that brings creativity into a new leadership paradigm. It’s not about perfection; it’s about the ways in which you have twisted and turned throughout life that provides your anchor of authenticity, and really does give you the tools needed to lead successfully. Intuition, compassion, humanity and a voice. Just stop and think about what this means to you for a minute (or two).You are in a constant state of transformation. Think back to how you have changed your life since the onset of the global financial crisis and the events that have taken place; I bet you feel busier, more challenged and more frenetic. But with the hindsight of the past decade or so, also a little more fulfilled, more realistic, even a bit more driven with purpose. This forced transformation has made us wiser and allowed us to be reminded of the positive and negative elements of life. The positives will undoubtedly be the result of human connections, both personally and professionally. Learning from each other and building a platform of trust to move ahead to strive towards being a sustainable organisation, regardless of disruption. 
  2. Stop apologising. Grasp the lessons and tell your story in your passionate voice.
    To effectively lead change, you need complete mental clarity. This starts with aligning your personal story of transformation to interpret the why of change and to be empowered to communicate intelligently and often. Never forget that people buy people and often just want to know what you think: you don’t have to have all the answers. You also don’t need to apologise; in fact, the real requirement is just “let ‘em have it”. Spare yourself the academics of story-telling: just say it because there is no excuse for ignorance anymore. Creativity begins by unlocking psychological barriers so that there is no preconceived filter with what you are thinking and what you know needs to be said. Emotionally intelligent communication is important, but the real need is to do what’s right. Manifest transparency: your voice is what is needed to lead change and authenticity is critical.

  3. Plan for the crisis scenario as the norm, game changers and all. Don’t deny the possibilities and break down mental barriers to get stuff done regardless. You will make progress.
    Practice the breakdown of scenarios as a daily habit. Go there. See the crisis scenario and play it out in your mind. How will you deal with it? This is where collaboration and connections come to the forefront. An ongoing discussion and debate of change is vital; even without knowing all the variables, a constant dialogue will help to flag potential disruptors from a number of perspectives. You can’t do it alone and reframing your perspective is a necessary habit to form a creative mindset. Creativity starts and ends with mindset and the ability to break down barriers and get stuff done. By envisioning the why of change and taking ownership for communicating the story, you are building clarity and helping to define a problem in a way that it can be managed. Leading change is like breaking down a wall with the tiniest ice pick you have ever seen. Keep chipping away and eventually you will get the break through, but this will come because you have not stopped communicating and interpreting what is happening around you, day in, day out.A leader’s mind needs to be malleable to the nuances and abject disruptors of change to grasp the links between external variables and organisational strategy, to reframe and reinterpret the next move.This is why leadership is the next creative industry. An organisation’s ability to change is the ultimate business opportunity and competitive advantage; the journey never ends and creativity is essential to build a sustainable future.