Saturday, June 04, 2011

64/100: Creativity and Leadership

If you are seen to be creative, an out-of-the-box thinker in your organization, you may actually be shut out of the Senior Management positions. This may be counter-intuitive, as the corporate jargon revolves around creative thinking. However, this is exactly what Jennifer Mueller of UPenn, Jack Goncalo of Cornell and Dishan Kamdar of Indian School of Business found, and presented in their paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. [For a summary, click here]

The key point is that a typical leader is expected to bring stability, promote a vision, achieve a consensus etc., not things that creative types would naturally do. The things they do instead - challenge status quo, start the debates - are not expected from the leaders. So, if you are showing your creativity, this may go against your prospects of rising higher up in your organization.

Creativity is usually seen as a specialist activity: In many businesses, this is the preserve of 'creative' departments, or of 'Research and Development'. The point about everyday creativity, though oft-repeated in management literature, remains consultant-speak, without much acceptance inside the boardrooms.

This is not about individualism/collectivism cultural divide, as this research shows. Usually, whenever I speak about creativity, the cultural stereo-typing will quickly lead the discussion to how Americans will accept a more creative leader than the Chinese, but this is not showing up in the research done across the cultural divide. Besides, the leader as the benevolent father isn't culture-specific, but cuts across the divide.

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