What makes a creative leader so effective

In any type of company, a leader is meant to come up with useful, novel ideas, suggested Dina Krasikova, the author of the report, adding that employees carry that responsibility as well.

Her research on leadership showed that ineffective or abusive leaders created stressful situations for their employees by humiliating them in front of others, playing favourites or not giving their subordinates proper credit for their work.

“When you feel stressed, you feel helpless and your productivity and creativity is diminished,” she said. “Many times this originates with the leader. For example, you might come to work unsure of what you’re supposed to be doing because you get conflicting expectations from your direct supervisor or your boss. The solution is clear roles and communication.”

As such, alongside colleagues Lei Huang of Auburn University and Dong Liu of the Georgia Institute of Technology, she looked into what made a creative leader so effective.

“When leaders feel confident that they can produce creative outcomes, their subordinates become more creative,” she said. “It’s that simple. But how do you create that environment in the first place?”

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Usually, creative leaders have the proper experience to fuel their ideas, she said. As a result, they’re more confident. Also, leaders become more confident in their creativity when it is recognised by upper-level management. But what surprised Krasikova most is that a leader’s creativity and confidence is contagious.

“A factor in this is the power of positive thinking,” she said. “Leaders can imbue their subordinates with confidence and creativity just by setting an example themselves.”

Krasikova also stressed the importance of high-quality interpersonal relationships between leaders and subordinates, with an emphasis on trust, loyalty and mutual professional respect.

“When a confident, creative leader also has good relationship with subordinates, it has even a stronger impact on subordinates’ creativity,” she said. “Creativity flourishes in supportive environments where leaders and subordinates have good interpersonal relationships. In such environments, subordinates will go an extra mile for a leader without expecting anything in return because they have a good relationship. They can depend on each other, because they trust each other.”

However, when a leader is not confident or creative, there’s a trickle-down effect and employees feel less confident in their own abilities to be creative.

“Leadership is a very complex phenomenon,” she said. “It’s not about whether leaders are born or made, it’s about how they use their skills once they get into that position.”

Apple has reigned supreme in terms of innovation for years, despite having the same access to talent that its competitors have. We took a look at what sets the firm apart and how UK bosses can implement the same leadership model.

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