How to Be a Creative Leader

Here at Cactus Search, we pride ourselves on sourcing the absolute best management and specialist staff in our industry. Over the past eight years, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a leader really stand out from the crowd – and we’ve been trying to work out what the “X Factor” is for those candidates we’ve placed.

After all, in recruitment, a lot of it is about the gut feeling you get when you’ve found a candidate that’s perfect for your client – usually, if you know your client well enough, you can tell it’s a match made in heaven after a couple of minutes chatting with your candidate.

But there’s something that unites all of the very best candidates in our industry – they understand the value of creative leadership. And it’s not just us that believe this – the 2010 IBM CEO Study said that “the majority of CEOs cite creativity as the most important leadership quality required to cope with growing complexity.”

So – what makes a creative leader? We put this to our LinkedIn contacts, and one of the best responses we received was this from Daniel Blackmore:

“Vision, courage, faith and compassion.”

Well said, we think! We’ve taken a look through some of the great “creative leaders” from Julius Caesar to Steve Jobs, to find out what characteristics they share with our very best candidates.

Being an Innovator.

innovation; from the Latin word innovatus, which is the noun form of innovare “to renew or change,” stemming from in—”into” + novus—”new”.”

Steve Jobs, when computers were huge!

It’s one of those buzz words that seems to be everywhere at the moment – with strong innovators being the motivating forces behind some of the world’s most successful companies. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, for instance, is known for his creative approach to business – an approach that has led to some of the most iconic products of the twentieth century. To his mind,

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

We think that’s good advice – after all, innovation is about change, and change is about progress. One of the distinguishing features of our best candidates is that they know when change is important, and they know how to make it happen. Being brave enough to stand up and implement changes, particularly in an organisation like a contact centre, makes those candidates the strongest in the industry – and the easiest for us to place!

Solving Problems People Didn’t Know They Had.

Coupled with innovation, the ability to spot a problem – especially one that’s not even been recognised as a problem yet – is a real skill. Being able to look at a business and see where it could be better (even if it’s functioning perfectly well as it is) is one of the key traits of a creative leader.

Starbucks. First New York, then the world!

Stanley Hainsworth, the man credited with turning Starbucks from a mere coffee shop chain into an iconic global brand, has said that “the best brands are those that create something for consumers that they don’t even know they need yet.” This doesn’t just apply to brands – it applies to every aspect of customer service, sales, and business as a whole.

If you’re a creative leader, you have that objectivity and focus to see your business clearly, and see it whole – and you’re detached enough to be able to see what it’s missing, and how it could improve.

Nurturing Those Around Them.

One person, however, will struggle to implement wide-scale change in an organisation. And let’s face it – having a workforce with a positive attitude almost always leads to greater productivity. That’s certainly the case for Proctor & Gamble, whose CEO A.G. Lafley shows:

“Great leaders create conditions that get people organized to attack problems. They help others learn how to think, how to exercise judgment and how to take action.”

Bill Gates, making us appreciate the humble USB stick.

And Bill Gates, of Microsoft, has backed this up –

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

Being able to both nurture and inspire your staff is a crucial aspect of management, and the most creative leaders are constantly thinking of new ways to help their workforce to improve themselves.

After all, if your staff feel like they’ve got the opportunity to grow, then they’re less likely to look elsewhere, and more likely to work harder for your business.

The Ability to Learn from Experience.

Leadership is a learning curve. As Julius Caesar said:

Experience is the teacher of all things.

Experience in this context, though, isn’t about years of experience or a logical career progression – it’s about knowing what’s made you who you are, and how that makes you a better manager.

Particularly in these post-recession years, it’s important to be able to reflect on your own working life, and to be able to look objectively at those things – good or bad – that have made you a stronger leader. Creative leaders can turn a negative experience into a positive learning curve, meaning that rather than dwelling on it, they can grow.

So that’s what we think makes a creative leader – and they’re personality traits possessed not only by the big names we’ve used here. We’ve got some amazing candidates on our books, many of whom really prove that creative leadership is a sure-fire route to success.

Cactus Search is the leading provider of Call and Contact Centre Management candidates to some of the most prestigious companies in the UK and Internationally.

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