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Can creative persons be good leaders?

Can creative people be good leaders? Leadership can be an art to an extent because it requires intuitive responses to different situations and can thus be creative to an extent. But is a person who is entirely creative, the right choice for a leader? This is a big question for many organizations, and with full justification.

Getting the most creative one to lead

This happens in team sport all too often. We have innumerable instances of very talented players going on to become captains of their teams, only to come a cropper all over, with disastrous results. Usually, the push to make the team’s most talented player the captain comes from the management. It is tempted to equate creative talent with leadership talent. The two are not always on par with each other.

In organizations too, the same temptation sometimes plays on the management. Whether creative persons go on to become successful leaders is always open to question. Many leadership pundits draw a parallel between the two by thinking that if creativity is all about thinking out of the box; so is leadership.

But leadership can be a science too!

This thinking is true, but to a limited extent. For that matter, leadership can be a science too, because it involves going about situations in a logical and process-oriented manner. Does just this much make leadership a science? To an extent, leadership can be both, but to get to the focus of this discussion –that of whether creative people necessarily make good leaders –one perspective we have to take is whether creative people can take logical decisions.

This is a major aspect of the discussion. By its very nature, creativity is bereft of logic. We don’t expect to see any rationality in a Da Vinci or Picasso painting. Do we? Creativity is the free and unrestricted and usually, unstructured flow of ideas. Does this make a person with this at his core suited for leadership? If leadership is all logic and if creativity is the exact lack of it; how does a creative person become an effective leader?

Leadership and creativity are two different boxes

Saying this much does not meant that there is any doubt about the leadership ability of the creative persons, but let us bear one fundamental point in mind: Creative persons can think of not just out of the box, but sometimes even out of the world ideas, but generally ONLY if it concerns their area of work. Leadership is not likely to be, for instance, a musician’s prime area of work. Stretching this example to organizations, we may have an animator who could come up with kickass ideas, but those will usually be design ideas.

Yes indeed, leadership is also a lot of inventiveness and thinking at the drop of a hat. But this is of a different nature altogether. A leader can think about business strategies and other aspects very creatively and differently, but this is creativity of a different type from the one concerning pure creative stuff. This is how it goes: Leaders can be creative, but seldom do creative people become leaders. Make no mistake –leadership does require creativity. But that is the kind of creativity that is confined to leadership skills. In fact, every profession requires a certain level of creativity of the kind and limit it permits.

We are all unique in our own sense

Why is it that creative people usually struggle as leaders? It is because of the human mind’s inability to think in different directions with the same effectiveness. We all come with unique talents. We all have our individual traits. Largely predetermined by genetic and many other factors, these are the very essence of our true selves. This explains why some people are born with the ability to run well, while others cannot. Some others are great singers, while others cannot think of a tune. To do something that goes against the basic grain of our core; it takes a lot. The person may do it out of compulsion or for the challenge, but it will never be accomplished with the ease with which someone born with that talent can.

There are a few leaders from the creative fields, too

There are many examples of creative persons who have gone on to become effective leaders, but they are more the exception than the rule. They are usually people with multifaceted talents that go on to perform these seemingly contradictory roles with ease and aplomb. It is akin to how charismatic actors have gone on to become well-known leaders. Ronald Reagan is perhaps the best example that one can think of. We have had quite a handful of such artistes who have become politicians in the developing world and led their countries for a considerable point of time and with reasonable success.

In the normal course, expecting an utterly creative person to automatically become or do well as a leader is a difficult proposition. One cannot come out with generalized answers. On the whole, if we have to answer the question of whether creative persons can become leaders, we have to judge on a case-to-case basis.


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