Leadership and creativity

Have I written about this yet? I’m not sure.

I’m a big fan of the work by Chris Bilton.  Bilton writes on management and creativity – or the management of creativity.  I can’t remember how I exactly fell across his ideas, but they resonated with me from the start.

In particular he writes extensively about how creativity is not an individual, but a collective, process.  The idea of inherent creative talent, or genius, is outmoded and creativity should be examined within a systems or ‘art worlds’ process.

I’ve used his work extensively in my Cultural Policy class, to critique the current funding mechanisms and the way they reward individual ‘talent’ over creating environments which help creativity flourish.  But now I’m looking at it from a leadership perspective and there’s a lot of cross over.

Like the examination of creativity, leadership was thought originally to be an inherent trait. There’s still debate even today over the born versus made leadership argument (it surprises me how many people still believe leadership is something you either have or have not.)  Scientists, according my Org Psych class in 2014, are close to locating the ‘leadership gene.’  Even though study of leadership has moved way beyond this born with it idea there has been a strong emphasis on individualism in leadership concepts and development – something I’ve definitely written about before. Bilton says about individuals within the creative process, and I like this: “Placing one’s gifts at the service of the project rather than using the project to showcase your talents.”  The same can easily be said about leadership. Too often we are about showcasing the leader rather than the outcomes.

Bilton’s sociological model of creativity requires diversity of people and interest in the environment or ecology that allows creativity to happen.  Increasing I think leadership is the same.  I’m more and more focussed on ‘new leadership’ one that is about influence and network capability over power and hierarchy, and my communities of practice approach is all about how groups of people come together to learn and develop leadership skills.  What I think (based on limited review of data) is also important is the ecology that Bilton mentions – some stimulate learning, some don’t. Which is why I see different levels of leadership identification depending on the creative sector.

My idea is that creating an environment to allow leadership to flourish is not unlike creating an environment for creativity to flourish (in fact maybe they are one and the same.)  Sometimes I think you could replace the word ‘creativity’ with ‘leadership’ in Bilton’s books and it would read equally as well. As an aside, one company that features heavily in discussions about both is Pixar.

I’m not sure where this is going yet.  I know I’m positioning my thesis as an extension of Jo Caust’s 2006 PhD on Leadership and Creativity in Adelaide, so it will beed to come in here somewhere, but I am wary of trying to introduce too many ‘big themes.’  I’m itching to get set up in my new place, which will have a whole study for me, and to get stuck into data analysis and post it not mapping ideas all over the walls.

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