5 Quandaries of Leading Creative People

I love having creative people on teams I lead, but, honestly, they can make leading much messier. Leading creatives can be difficult.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the top Google definition of a creative: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Creative minds are always wandering. They get bored easily. They are never completely satisfied with their work – and often with the work of others. It makes leading a team meeting harder.

And, before you creatives get too defensive, just so you know…

I’m a creative.

Not an artsy creative. I don’t paint, do music, etc. But I’m a dreamer. I have a vivid imagination. I’ve never met a day I didn’t have a new idea. My mind wanders quickly — randomly — often.

The main reason I love creatives being on the team is they bring new ideas. They stretch others, add energy and challenge mediocrity.

One huge paradigm for me, however, was realizing the quandaries of being a creative. I think this is the word I’m trying to illustrate. A quandary — “a state of perplexity” — confusion.

It is in some of these quandaries which might makes us creatives more difficult to lead.

Consider what I mean – and see if this is familiar with you – or the creatives you lead.

Here are 5 quandaries of the creative:

We don’t like boundaries, rules or policies (and we may test them or rebel against them)  but we need them in order to be effective.

The fact is we need deadlines. We don’t like deadlines, or being held to them, but deadlines are usually the only way to keep us on task, so we actually crave someone to give them to us. Creatives need to know what a win looks like. We need structure. I’m not suggesting you give us needless rules – we need healthy rules which empower more than limit or control – but we produce our best for organizations and teams under some restrictions.

Sometimes our minds wander in so many directions, with no clarity, that we can’t even catch a single thought, and nothing makes sense other times the idea is laser-focused, and we can’t write, paint, draw, or sketch it fast enough.

Which is why even within the deadlines we need freedom to decide how and when we do our work. Creative flow doesn’t always happen in cooperation with standard office hours.

We have lots of ideas – they are endless. Ideas come fast; really fast, too fast sometimes.

As fast as they arrive they’re gone if we don’t record them quickly, but sometimes we can’t get them out of our head and onto the canvas, or put them into a format which helps you understand what we are even thinking.

Which is why having us on teams can be beneficial, especially when there is more than one creative on the team. We like to process our ideas – often out loud – with others. And, even when we don’t feel like it – we probably really should. It helps eliminate confusion later. Brainstorming can be loads of fun and beneficial with a room full of creatives. (We will need more structured people to help make sense of things.)

Nothing we observe is ever wasted, every new thing we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, can lead to another idea but it also means our mind is never still, and if we are forced still long enough, we become very bored.

Long meetings lose us. Long emails never get read. Details make our heads explode. Leading creatives really does necessitate creative methods of leading.

We are tremendously flexible in our imagination – in the things we can dream about or create, but we can often be dogmatic in protecting our original ideas, and inflexible when it comes to changing them.

It’s true. I admit it. We actually like change, but can resist on changing our “masterpiece”. Don’t be afraid though to challenge us to improve. It is often just the push we need to get to our best work.

Do you see how we could be more difficult to lead?

Within each quandary is a decision I have to make as a leader — knowing when to place boxes around them and when to give them free reign, etc.

But it often begins with an understanding – of the quandary – and ultimately of the people we are attempting to lead.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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