The Creative Leader: Part 9

“We like to pretend the gap from knowing to doing is small, but it’s enormous, and few people are willing to do the work to close that gap. It requires courage, persistence, comfort with risk, and a willingness to do work with no guaranteed external rewards.” -Scott Berkun ‘The Myths of Innovation’ (on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship)

Knowing to Doing…

A lot gets lost between that space occupied by ‘to’.  Such a small word to represent such an incredibly vast space.  And yet, that is often the way of life, as such small things often have such profound effect in our lives.  It is this same dichotomy that presses in on being creative and understanding creativity.  And for the creative leader, it is about accepting and embracing this duality.  For, it is not enough to ‘know’ without ‘doing’…as it is not enough to ‘do’ without ‘knowledge’.  Which is why creatives and creative leaders often need to embrace the dual nature of AND…

And while creativity might not be as difficult to conceptualize as we once thought, it is still complex.  More and more we hear words such as persistence, perseverance, determination, and even perspiration tied to creativity…especially, as we peel away the ingrained myths that still shroud and surround the idea of creativity as something granted to the artistic few.  Complex in that we each have our own ideas and even falsehoods as to what, and even who we consider as creative.

And beyond the complexity of creativity itself, those looking to be more creative can often face a difficult and frustrating journey…proliferated by a lifetime of perseverance in the uphill battles faced from the plentitude of ‘not enough’s’ that abound.  As it is ‘not enough’ to just have good ideas, if you can’t get those ideas across to other people.  It is ‘not enough’ to passionately understand why your idea is worthwhile, if you can’t get others to see the value. It is ‘not enough’ to continually amass ideas, if you do not openly share or act upon them…

It is this duality (one AND the other, not one OR the other) that is present in the creative life that is imperative for today’s leaders to acknowledge, comprehend, and even embrace.

Yet, unfortunately, leaders still approach their position from a ‘this’ or a ‘that’ proposition.  Many still struggle to understand that this dual nature does not have a diminishing effect on your leadership.  It can, when embraced, actually enhance your effectiveness.  When you begin to understand that you can be strong and vulnerable simultaneously, that you actually gain influence by letting go of power, or that you can lead and still be who you are at the same time.

Too often, leaders spend their time trying to prove that there are no chinks in the armor, than embracing their own, authentic self.

It is this “complex personality” and duality that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses in his work, ‘Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention’.  This dichotomy that exists within the creative mind and personality, which he describes as the…”ability to move from one extreme to the other as the occasion requires.”

It is in, ‘Creativity’ that he lists a few of those ‘AND’s’ that are a part of the dual nature that Csikszentmihalyi has discovered, through his research, to be lurking within the creative personality…

  1. “Creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.”
  2. “Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naïve at the same time.”
  3. “A third paradoxical trait refers to the related combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.”
  4. “Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other. Both are needed to break away from the present without losing touch with the past.”
  5. “Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.”
  6. “Creative individuals are also remarkably humble and proud at the same time.”
  7. “Creative individuals to a certain extent escape this rigid gender role stereotyping (masculinity/femininity).”
  8. “Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent.”
  9. “Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.”
  10. “The openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.”

While this list is not exhaustive, it is very representative of the dual nature that exists within many creative personalities.  (For more depth in each area, explore Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, ‘Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention’.)

And it is this duality that most leaders refrain from and avoid…even when it is part of their personality.

This list is not shared to infer that individuals and leaders need to engage these dual natures to be creative.  Rather, this is shared in an effort to free creative individuals and leaders from hiding those personality contrasts that often rub against prevailing ideas on how a leader should be…or act.  The idea that leaders must always be strong, decisive, and all-knowing.  This super-hero portrayal of leadership that often gets in the way of not only our creativity…but being our truly authentic self.

Embracing this creative duality, can remove the veil that we often use to hide who we truly are, who we want to be, and how we want others to truly see us…as individuals and as leaders.  It is when we realize that we can remove this mask, that we can begin to become the truly creative leaders that our organizations need to be led into the future.  As well as creating the culture and environments necessary to bring out the creative and innovative best in others..and ourselves.

Creativity is not abstract – it’s specific. It shows up only when you are trying to do some particular thing. This seems obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many people never even take the first step toward whatever it is they dream about everyday.” -Scott Berkun ‘The Myths of Innovation’

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