10 Strengths of a High-Creative Leader

creative leader

Scaling Leadership

 

The world of business is moving faster than ever before, and this world is filled with much volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. In their book, Scaling Leadership: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most, leadership experts Bob Anderson and Bill Adams argue that in these fast-changing times, no single leader—no matter how skilled or how experienced—can know everything that needs to be known about their organization, nor consistently make the best decisions. The solution to this dilemma is to scale leadership.

I recently interviewed Bob and Bill to learn more about scaling leadership and the implications for leaders in any kind of organization.

 

“A business can’t outgrow the effectiveness of its leadership!” -Robert Anderson, William Adams

 

Scale or Die

What does it mean to scale leadership?

There’s a fundamental principle of life as we know it—it either scales and grows, or it dies. It’s that simple. Growth is built into the DNA of every living organism that exists on our planet today—from the mighty redwoods, to vast underwater forests of kelp, to huge migrating flocks of birds, to human beings. Businesses are in many ways much like living creatures. Businesses either grow and thrive, or they die and fade away—doomed to irrelevance as competitors pass them by.

However, it’s not enough to simply grow our organizations. We must also scale new and innovative solutions to complex business, organizational, and global problems. And we must do so in a world that’s becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. This requires leaders throughout the leadership system of the organization who can do more, know more, decide more, contribute more, and be more—for their organizations, their people, their customers, and for the communities in which they do business.

Leaders must learn to scale themselves by scaling leadership. Leaders who scale leadership grow the capability and capacity of those who work for and with them to take on leadership tasks of their own—leveraging their own leadership across far more individuals and teams while creating a workplace where people thrive.

Setting up peer coaching and accountability groups with a regular practice of providing ongoing, supportive feedback greatly accelerates and scales the development of Creative leaders.

 

“Leaders must learn to scale themselves by scaling leadership.” -Robert Anderson, William Adams

 

10 Strengths of the Most Effective Leaders

Based on your extensive research, what defines a High-Creative leader or differentiates the most effective leaders?

In the research presented in Scaling Leadershipwe look into what differentiates the most effective leaders from those who are not. We do so by analyzing 1,350 pages of 360-degree written comments—senior leaders providing written comments to other senior leaders. While every leader is different, bringing different sets of strengths and weaknesses to the table, we found that High-Creative leaders consistently demonstrated the following 10 strengths:

Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do

Most people want to be positive, to lead in a positive way, and to think positive thoughts. Not many people aspire to be negative.  We laugh when we see the donkey, Eeyore, in Winnie the Pooh, but most of us can name someone with that mindset.  And all of us go through periods where we may exhibit that behavior.  How to consistently create a positive mindset is a skill.

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Kathy Cramer, who has just released a book called Lead Positive.

 

“Leading positive is when a leader is looking at what’s possible, what’s positive, what’s valuable, and what they can leverage in the moment.” -Dr. Kathy Cramer

 

Leading Positive

Your new book is titled Lead Positive. What does “leading positive” mean?

It took us a long time to come up with that title, believe it or not. It’s very simple, very straight forward, and people tell me that they get it right away. It’s about leading and it’s about moving forward in a positive way towards a positive result.

Highly effective leaders spend 5x more attention on the possible positive than on problems.


Lead Positive also has a subtitle that is very important to the meaning of the book and the purpose of the book: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say and Do.  In my study and experience with coaching leaders, I have found that the see-say-do framework is a self-reinforcing loop.  Oftentimes, leaders are not really aware of exactly what they’re paying attention to. But whatever it is dictates in a very direct way what will come out of their mouths—what they’re going to say—and then ultimately what they do.  So it’s a virtuous cycle.

9781118658086.pdfLeading positive is when a leader is looking at what’s possible, what’s positive, what’s valuable, and what they can leverage in the moment.  When leaders are looking at the upside of a situation—welcomed or unwelcomed—then they create a virtuous cycle.  They start talking about it, they say out loud what they’re seeing, and then other people join them in taking action, doing what is necessary to really take advantage of the upside.

In your research on leadership, what distinguishes a highly effective leader?

One of the things that stands out about highly effective leaders is that they actually spend five times more attention and effort leveraging what is possible and what is positive in the moment than they do focusing on problems. That is a big reversal from what most of us by nature and nurture do almost automatically.

What neuroscience refers to as our negativity bias literally equips us to be more sensitive and more reactive to something that spells danger, harm, problem or something’s not right. And so if we let that negativity bias have its way, most of us are literally the opposite; we’re focusing on the upside five times less than the downside.

What we’re doing here with highly effective leaders is we’re training them how to be aware: “What am I paying attention to?” And if it’s a huge problem or a huge barrier, something that’s significant, of course, you need to pay attention to it, but pay attention to it as an asset-based thinker would—by focusing five times more effort on the assets inherent in the situation, even if the situation is problematic.

On the other hand, deficit-based thinkers are people who have not tackled or tried to tame their negativity bias. It’s quite easy to do. It’s a simple process, but we find it difficult because it means cultivating a new habit.

Soul is all about meaning what you say and saying something meaningful.” –Kathy Cramer

You break down communication into substance, sizzle, and soul. It really resonated with me. “Saying it” with substance, sizzle and soul makes communication positive and memorable. Would you share an example of this?

I’m thinking of Franklin Delano Roosevelt here.  In his famous inaugural speech, one of his first lines was, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Let’s just take that one memorable line. There is tremendous substance here, which really refers to the psychological fact that when you are afraid, when you’re in deficit-based thinking land, there’s some anxiety. And in this case, America was going through the Great Depression, so the anxiety was profound. When we feel hopeless we have a very narrow focus. Our minds operate like lasers zeroing in on what the problem is and how to escape. But there is no creative bandwidth at all in that.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” –F.D.R.

Speak With Substance

So when a leader is speaking with substance, he is giving people the kind of information that FDR was presenting, the cautionary tale: If we act out of fear, we surely will fail, we surely will be sub-optimized, we surely will be impulsive.

Speak With Sizzle

The sizzle that’s associated with this phrase has to do with the emotion, the profound warning that you can hear in FDR’s voice. We can go to YouTube, we can Google this particular speech, and we can hear it thanks to technology now and even view him as he spoke those words. The tone of his voice and the message itself had sizzle because they were speaking directly about emotion.

Speak With Soul