Boundless, unfettered creativity really seems to be the hallmark of an effective CEO, and many household-name business leaders are lauded for their creative, free-spirited flair.
This makes a lot of sense: When the vast majority of your day involves being the face of a company, it's important to show off your inventiveness and open-mindedness. (And hey — is it even possible to launch a company today without some sort of disruption?)
Innovation is the name of the game, and an inability to take a creative, visionary stance makes leaders seem out of touch. In the worst cases, it could even contribute to a company's failure.
Moving beyond creativity in a CEO
The importance of creativity in leadership can't be understated, and having a creative bent is certainly important for business leaders across the board. However, it isn't always the end-all, be-all trait of effective CEOs.
Having a CEO who can add a bit of innovative flourish is surely useful to a team of executives helping to steer the ship — a group of people truly able to execute on the ideas the CEO brings up in his or her day-to-day work.
In reality, though, adjusting quickly to the ever-changing nature of a business might be an even better capability for CEOs. Case in point: What if our imaginative CEO is surrounded by similarly creative executives who have trouble carrying ideas forward? The team could drive straight into the ground, and it goes without saying that the CEO's creativity would be much less valuable this time around. Even worse, CEOs who feel obligated to fill an idea-generator role (rather than focusing on what his or her team needs) might actually limit workers who are more driven to demonstrate their creative skill sets. The CEO feels forced to keep churning out ideas, and the natural creatives underneath this leader have no choice but to keep trudging along.
This happens more than we think: In its 2019 Global CEO Outlook, KPMG International notes that the vast majority of CEOs want employees to innovate and flex their creative muscles without fearing negative consequences. Unfortunately, just 56% of them say their firm's culture values "fail-fast" innovation.
There's intent, but the action isn't always there.
The power of CEO intuition
The CEOs of today should be able to shift their behavior and adapt intuitively to the skills of those around them — even if that means going against their own nature every once in a while.
Of course, making these changes can be tricky for the leader who doesn't know she should make a change. Luckily, those occupying the C-suite probably have wide-ranging career experience already.
Let's put this in perspective: Say you're at the beginning of your career. You were likely hired into your starting role because you had a specific array of skills — expertise that predicted your success in that role, specifically. As you move forward and start managing people, planning out your own tasks, being proactive, and carrying out regular duties likely isn't enough. You not only have to juggle a heftier task list, but also to coach people, demonstrate empathy, and hone your emotional intelligence.
As you move into a CEO role, then, you'll need even more people-management skills that require you to ebb and flow with your business.