This article has been contributed by Divyang Metaliya.
Leadership turns into a technical job once you learn it’s dynamics – unless you are dealing with creatives. Creative professionals just don’t fit into your typical norms. In formal environments, it takes a specific set of skills for managers to successfully synchronize with true creatives.
To manage creatives, one needs to demonstrate an open-minded, resourceful, intuitive, and courageous form of leadership that itself is an art. Creatives associate differently, and therefore you need to handle things dynamically to stay relevant.
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson.
The institutionalization of any organization leads to the standardization of processes and ultimately creates codes of conduct. Artistic minds view some such practices as attempts to curb their freedom to create new pathways and their ability to innovate.
You will see creatives in graphic design and branding agencies, media houses, product design departments, and even in sales teams. As more and more companies are employing people with artistic sides, commercializing their abilities is a concern discussed by many.
In this article, I will try to display the mechanics of how creatives’ minds work and how you can lead a team of unconventional brains successfully.
Dive in deeper to explore the world of thought alchemists.
Into the Mind of a Creative
Originality is the ability to think independently and creatively. Perhaps, this is the primary reason for the friction between gifted creatives and ordinary people. We may sometimes sound bonkers and often tend to disagree with most social norms.
I find myself denying ideas that are too easy to digest or exist only because nobody cares to question them. This very idea of rebellion against stagnation gives us a high.
A C-suite manager, on the other hand, tries to keep things manageable. You will find that their expectations typically revolve around:
- items that fit in predefined categories.
- designing processes that are repeatable, replicable and replaceable.
- planned actions with measurable process parameters.
- having backups for any failures.
- ability to get a return for every penny invested.
- keeping the lowest possible dependability on the employees.
Anything that doesn’t fit into these criteria seems intimidating to them. I don’t disagree with them because you usually build houses out of rectangular boxes known as bricks.
Well, artists always like being out of the box, and this is the point where the whole struggle begins.
There are subtle differences in the thought process of every personality group, and we can bridge the gaps with some extra effort.
The key to maximising the success of a team of creatives is integrating the leadership attributes that they most value into your own personal style. By understanding the creative mindset and catering effectively to it, you’ll be able to leverage their unique strengths to level up your entire business.
The Top Leadership Qualities Admired by Creatives
1. Empowering and Extending Interpersonal Assistance
The mindset of creative artists is often not easy to understand or relatable for commoners.
Thus, they will prefer to work with leaders who can relate to their thought processes and inner tendencies — somebody who can relate to their feelings and exhibit agreement with their motivations.
Hence, becoming a custodian to their inner being is a highly recognizable trait for becoming a part of their tribe.
A way of empowering is also to appreciate the uniqueness of ideas and to make them feel valued as part of a more significant cause.
Also, creatives don’t like overkill when it comes to planning. Even if they do, their sometimes contradictory notions will cause laypeople to scratch their heads.
These kinds of staff members often fall into the category of knowledge workers. Therefore, they often have higher expertise in their respective field than their manager, which makes things even more complicated.
As a boss, we understand that budgets, deadlines, and feasibility are significant considerations for business. However, innovating is a tough process, and it requires a substantial amount of patronage to reach its full potential.
Creatives will push for things that don’t necessarily satisfy your criteria of running a business. So, they would be already facing problems throughout their career. If you want to make things work, try to empower them as long as you can manage other aspects of their work.
Sharing responsibilities and creating collective authority is vital to developing higher engagement. Providing aid in the daily clerical routine and even simple gestures like actively discussing their ideas will work like a charm.
Their willingness to complete their projects runs at two extremes. At times, they will face a dry spell, and sometimes they experience almost a high out of their craft while working for what seems like days at a stretch. These people are known to work until they get satisfied or not work at all for ages.
Management needs to acknowledge the fact that their work is not monotonous or robotic. Their capability is very much dependent on inspiration and their emotional journey.
Allowing personal freedom in terms of office hours, working from home, or letting them spend time on things that don’t relate to the company’s routines reflect positively in overall quality. Start by allowing flexible office timing through an attendance management system. Little changes like this will go a long way.
Being innovative in this way may seem risky or avoidable if currently used mechanisms are already producing results. Building new paths requires efforts in unknown directions, and when it comes to business, this can also be expensive.
However, flexibility and the liberty to explore untouched horizons will create an immense attraction for existing and new staff.
3. Nurturing Curiosity
Imagination and intuition are two of the most unique strengths of creatives, separating them from the crowd. They can imagine changes to the status quo, which ignites their sense of innovation.
Many of us naturally avoid compromising our present lives in order to have a brighter future. So, when an innovator is making such a change, being trusted right from the beginning is both a luxury and a need.
Curious minds are always attracted to resourceful people. They expect their superiors to be able to understand their concepts and provide feedback to make the results in line with the market.
For this, having knowledge of various fields and understanding the potentials of new approaches, giving suggestions to existing ones, and working on a broad spectrum of possibilities are some hard-to-have yet appreciable characteristics.
4. Appetite for Risk
Purpose is more important than the final gains for creative intellectuals – the journey is the reward. The desire to experiment and be open to learning new things tempts creative people to put everything at stake in order to discover the outcome.
Image source: AZ Quotes
They find happiness in challenging themselves and seeking novel experiences. However, for a business, devising an entirely new marketing plan, pitching new products, or targeting a new client base can quickly turn into a financial risk.
As the leader responsible for the bottom line, risk assessment and project evaluation are key to strategic decision making. It will be crucial for you to effectively balance the risks with the gains. At times it will become necessary to increase budgets or conversely, put projects on the shelf depending on the situation.
You may even need to be or hire a moderator to bridge the gap between creative risktakers and finance personnel. The likelihood of disputes can result in attrition rates and disdain towards the central leadership of the organization.
I can explain this better with the following example: One cannot explain the work of a painter to a finance executive or lawyer unless they are curators. The manager’s role in a creativity-based department is also similar to a curator in this sense.
You require the ability to trust in your creatives’ vision and take risks. You will also need to communicate with other members of the organization and explain potential, progress and other aspects of work.
5. Ethical Conservativeness
Creatives approach every situation with a sense of ideological radicalism. Especially in the field of marketing and branding, devising out of the box strategies is a vital business requirement.
It is the sign of a great leader to identify potholes in the existing systems and contribute to the process of development. However, this should not be in the form of anti-establishment sentiments or a rebellion. It is indeed said that artists are rooted deeply in cultural and ethical values most of the time and try to add their contributions.
They are also ethically conservative when internal matters are concerned. Getting money in their accounts is not the final goal in their life, and anything that compromises values has a negative impact.
I think that appreciation of work also goes a long way in the creative community. As an artist myself, I find that there is plenty of emotions and personal attachment to our fields such that any attempt to dilute expression for anything immoral feels like corruption.
Consistency in moral standards and confirmation to the broader causes is a must-have for us.
6. Fluency in Communication
Creatives are pretty vocal about everything and will strive to communicate extensively. If you cannot openly talk to them, it is very much likely that you will be deemed to be anti-social. The typical corporate office politics is too shady to digest, and they will, therefore, prefer gaiety around their desks.
Usually, creatives aren’t much into the status quo. They consider the entire corporate culture as their enemy, which tries to shun their potential through rules and regulations. So, you’ll need strong communication skills to mediate between various internal entities.
Over To You
We need to understand that the very basics of leading people are based on understanding them. You cannot motivate people to work in a certain way without knowing what they thrive on and what will kill their passion and drive.
Most of the problems in formal environments with diversely skilled professionals arise when we don’t understand other people’s work and motivations. Hence, you can expect far better results at managerial positions by utilizing people who can learn quickly and act as active contributors.
I hope that this article will help you in developing the leadership traits which will help your creative business thrive.
About the author: Divyang Metaliya is a Business Consultant at FactoHR,, an India-based HR and Payroll Software solution provider. He is a creative business strategist with more than 8 years of experience.