Are you a creative leader? If you aren’t, you have room to grow.

“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pearce

Have you ever been saddled with the job of pushing back against a leader in your organization who’s committed to “doing things the way they’ve always been done?” It can be nearly impossible to force some individuals to step outside of their comfort zone and embrace the unfamiliar. But what’s the alternative? If it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt, it’s no surprise that the best and brightest employees with progressive ideas walk away from companies with leaders like these. To avoid watching this happen in your organization, consider following these three important directives:

  1. Lead by Creative Example. The truth is, we’re all familiar with executives, department heads and managers who prefer to lead by example … that is,someone else’s old, tired example. Perhaps at times, you have even been such a leader. Though organizations filled with these “leaders” may be able to coast on previous success in the short term, a day will come when they become obsolete … and possibly out of business. In order to be successful, it is imperative you and other leaders demonstrate some modicum of creativity and a willingness to be flexible when taking measures to achieve goals. To attain this success, you must have a clear vision of how to move forward but remain open to the possibility (and likelihood) of deviation along an evolving path.
  2. Travel the Journey Fearlessly. Take, for example, one of my favorite CEO clients, David. He uses the following phrase to shape his company’s vision and DNA: “What got us here won’t get us there.” This phrase articulates David’s leadership mojo and helps to define his take on his corporate journey. By recognizing the value of and learning from what’s worked well in the past, he can then leverage creativity to shape the company’s future and modify the path it is taking. To me, this leader and this company represent the pure definition of adaptive and flexible motives: a journey filled with curiosity, a willingness to iterate as necessary and the absence of fear.
  3. Champion the Unfamiliar Path. To underscore the importance of being open to the evolution of your path and your company’s, I’m reminded of a quote from author Clay Christensen in his book The Inventor’s Dilemma: “There are direct paths to a successful career. But there are plenty of indirect paths, too.” These indirect paths are peppered with stretch assignments in global locations, college abroad, new project work that borders on scary and the occasional sideline initiative that creates dog-years in your wisdom toolbox. Career challenges that require flexibility crystallize in your DNA and push you beyond your inherent limits. To determine whether your skillset fits the bill, ask yourself this question: Does the phrase “disrupt yourself and reinvent your company” find a place in your own professional life or your company’s strategic plan?

Together, this unique combination of flexibility and creativity allows you to craft a career that is open and receptive to change, motion and innovation, which is essential for success. It also positions you among top executives and employees alike as someone to look up to, learn from and get behind. That’s the kind of leader we’re all hungry to know and hoping to be.

To determine whether your skillset fits the bill, ask yourself this question: Does the phrase “disrupt yourself and reinvent your company” find a place in your own professional life or your company’s strategic plan?

When we push through, then we grow and evolve – we adapt, disrupt and create. We leave behind fear to pursue what doesn’t yet exist – our next creation.

Karen Fenaroli leverages 25+ years of CEO tenure, executive search consulting, and leadership experience to help high-growth businesses identify and evaluate critical executive and board member placements. She balances the next-up generation of truly talented executive candidates with the critical needs of her client base that includes companies within the Fortune 100, Russell 2000, YPO entrepreneurial and private equity backed organization, and some of the largest US privately-owned businesses.

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