How Your Leadership Style Can Help Creativity At Work

To help your work team be more creative and productive, you will need the flexibility to model your behavior on a variety of leadership styles. Admittedly, it is difficult to change a leadership style, but it can be done.

Here are four useful leadership styles, each with an array of effective behaviors. You probably will recognize yourself.

• DIRECTIVE: Telling, asserting, modeling.

• PARTICIPATIVE: Coaching, negotiating, collaborating.

• CATALYTIC: Encouraging, facilitating, consulting.

• NON-DIRECTIVE: Delegating.

Ideally, in managing your work group, you would choose the leadership style that fits best with an individual’s ability, willingness and confidence to work independently. A directive style would be called for if an individual has low aptitude for independent work; otherwise, you would use leadership styles that exert less control.

In reality, if you are like most leaders, you are stuck in one management style. To be a more effective leader, you need to learn skills related to other styles, so you can respond flexibly to the needs of your people and thus unleash creative output across your entire work group.

There are a host of habits and behaviors that can interfere with creative output, and most leaders are blissfully unaware that their own habits, often very productive, may be stifling innovation.

The best way to find out whether you are stifling or stimulating innovation within your work group is to ask. You can ask your people directly, or you can allow your people to respond through a confidential questionnaire. You might even want to bring in an outside consultant to help the process. Needless to say, the more confidential the process, the better the chance of getting frank answers.

Chances are, some members of your work group will respond that they need more time, more freedom, less supervision. Keep in mind that the strongest creative stimulus comes from a combination of leadership styles. Research has shown that when the focus is on what’s best for highly innovative output, as judged by external standards, complete freedom does not seem to be as effective as moderate freedom combined with supportive consultations with supervisors or managers.

In other words, creativity is fostered best by moderate leadership styles, in which the control is neither too tight, nor too lax. The catalytic and non-directive styles, mixed with a careful use of the participative style, would seem to be the most productive in stimulating creative output and innovation.

In applying this to your workplace, try to determine your leadership style. Ask the people in your work group to fill out questionnaires rating you on asserting and modeling (directive style), coaching and negotiating (participative style), encouraging, facilitating and consulting (catalytic style), and delegating (non-directive style).

If you are found wanting in some areas, then sign up for one of the many available training programs that can help you develop your under used leadership muscles.

Then give your people a franchise that encourages creativity. Give strong direction; delegate tasks to take advantage of individual strengths; intervene with training and coaching when needed; let people set their own goals (within the context of your direction) and run their own business with occasional encouragement and support from you.

Above all, let your people know that you want to improve as a leader, and get their feedback.

Make action plans to do these things on a systematic basis this coming week.

©2017 by Edward Glassman, Ph.D., is the author of Creativity  Handbook: Shift Paradigms and Harvest Creative Thinking at Work” and The Creativity Factor: Unlocking the Potential of Your Team.”

He has led numerous creativity meetings and workshops for many companies, including IBM, DuPont, Amoco Chemical, Ciba-Geigy, Hoechst-Celanese, Texaco, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Milliken, Federal-Mogul, and many others.

©2017 Edward Glassman, Ph.D.

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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