BY Nick Jankel

Author, Futurist, Leadership Developer, Philosopher, Wisdom Teacher

In challenging times, we need a kind of leadership that can disrupt the status quo with as little pain and as much elegance as possible. I believe the times we live and work in demand that we focus our entire mind and body on ensuring our organizations—and the systems we are part of—remain match fit for the future.

As transformational leaders, we must lead, form, and nurture an innovation culture where diverse individuals can access safe spaces and agile places to be creative.

Creative leadership and the leadership of innovation is about solving transformational challenges with transformational solutions that adapt our enterprise or unit to the fast-changing world.

Once we are showing up feeling fluid and free—using our purpose to focus on a specific transformational challenge, it is time to generate a creative response rather than a conditioned reaction.

We want to invent non-linear next practice to resolve challenges by transforming what we do and how we do it, rather than knee-jerk back to technical best practice while hoping the problem goes away.

Strategic Creativity

This means harnessing creativity strategically: using creativity for challenging problems; and then refining and optimizing ideas so they actually work. Between the two, we can enter what psychologists call creative ‘flow states.’ Academics, such as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (formerly at University of Chicago), have interviewed hundreds of sportspeople, artists, and scientists, and found that many of them have experienced times when their sense of self, time, and space has receded. Instead, they have been fully consumed by the moment: with creativity flowing feeling from them without striving for it.

Smart Experimentation

A central ingredient of creative and innovation leadership is what I call “smart experimentation”: testing out ideas without needing them to be piloted to perfection; in cheap and fast ways with real human beings that provide actionable data and insight; and doing this systematically—scientifically—so we know what we are actually testing for with each prototype and trial we carry out.

This means bringing a level of rigor and discernment into creative processes and teams. We ensure that every experiment has a hypothesis to test; and that the variables are reduced as much as possible so we know if the hypothesis is proven or not.

How Transformational Leaders Inspire Creativity

As transformational leaders, we must lead, form, and nurture an innovation culture where diverse individuals can access safe spaces and agile places to be creative. This means generating constantly mindsets, habits, and emotional states that nourish inchoate ideas rather than criticize, control, and kill them off.

Creative and innovative transformational leaders need to be able to carefully stretch comfort zones so people can risk thinking new thoughts and embrace failure as learning. This kind of “fail-forward” culture, as I call it, understands that when we are forging the future, we have to find ways to fail well; and use all failure as an opportunity to challenge deeply-held assumptions with triple-loop learning.

As creative and innovative transformational leaders, we must develop our capacity to be agile: able to change direction constantly as new data and insight comes rushing toward us without losing clarity, consistency, and focus. We must allow for constant ongoing evolution and creative iteration even as we execute with laser-like intention. Otherwise, by the time we deliver our project, the new product/service/business model will be out of date already.

Switch On’s Transformational Leadership services:

We design and deliver for organization’s neuroscience-based transformational leadership programs that develop transformational leaders who take charge of change to land outstanding immediate results and long-term transformation in complex and challenging times.

Personally, if want to master the foundations of transformational leadership, take a look at our Mindsets of Transformational Leadership Toolkit. Work independently or team up with a colleague to boost your leadership agility, creativity, and adaptability with our “plug-and-play” toolkit.