A recent IBM survey of more than 1500 CEOs reports that creativity is the single most important leadership competency in these turbulent times. However, the leaders’ role is not only to nourish their own creativity but even more importantly to unlock the creative potential in others.
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew that by caring about your own creativity, you could help your team to live up to their creative potential?
Lei Huang from Auburn University in United States with his colleagues Dina Krasikova (University of Texas at San Antonio), and Dong Liu (Georgia Institute of Technology) conducted a study with 544 employees and 106 supervisors at a large information technology company in the U.S.
The results suggest that leaders who perceived themselves more confident in their creative capacity were also more encouraging their employees to engage in creative endeavours, which in turn led to higher levels of employee creativity.
Researchers also found that those followers who experienced better quality relationships with their leaders were better at responding to leader’s encouragement – identifying new problems, searching for information and generating novel ideas – than those in low quality relationships.
Low quality relationships are characterised with the lower levels of trust, loyalty, commitment, and respect toward leaders, therefore employees who experience these type of relationships respond less favourably to leader’s encouragement and pay lower attention to the interest of their leaders.
Indeed, a number of previous studies show that the relationships quality between leader and follower is also a strong predictor of the follower creativity.
David Kelly, founder of design and innovation consultancy firm, IDEO, in his book Creative Confidence invites to develop a growth mind set – innovation skills and capabilities are not set in stone. Therefore a leadership program, aimed at nurturing leaders’ confidence in producing creativity, could be an important component of leadership development curriculum in your organisation. Not less important is the role of top management acknowledging creative efforts (not only final outcomes) as positive feedback reinforces leaders’ beliefs about their abilities.
Organisations could also identify job candidates’ creative confidence in the recruitment process in order to identify managers’ who are better positioned to foster employee creativity.
Finally, leaders’ ability to build good quality relationships with their team members is key to employee creativity. Trust is at the core of leader-follower relationships therefore organisations should support those leaders who seek to dedicate time for more frequent and quality conversations and development of mutual understanding with their team members.
Formal and informal one-on-one mentorship and coaching sessions, social and learning events (which can help connect employees with managers) could help to develop affective connections between managers and employees.
Steve Jobs, known as one of the most creative leader of recent times believed that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.
The above study shows that leaders who are confident in their own creative capacity and those who can develop relationships based on trust, loyalty and respect, will benefit most: from their own ideas and creative outcomes of their people.
Dr Ieva Martinaityte
Lecturer in Business and Management, University of East Anglia