CUI111.3 Being a creative leader

Being an effective leader is a great challenge. However, if we add word “creative” to this phrase, the goal becomes even harder to reach. We are all more or less familiar with the basic leadership skills, but how a creative leader differs from a traditional one?


Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 7.03.54 PM

Screenshot from “John Maeda on the importance of creative leadership”


It would be right to focus on the word “creative”: it might sound very basic, but a creative leader applies his creativity to leading his team. This includes abilities to communicate and interact with the team, to improvise and look at things differently, to learn from mistakes and be open to the unlimited feedback. According to John Maeda, within a successful company led by a creative mind, everyone in the team interacts in order to help each other so everybody can benefit from it. Importantly, those who would be at the bottom of a classical hierarchical pyramid (basically, product creators), should actually be at the top of a tree, which lives because of the support of the roots — and these routes are a creative leader (Design Inbada, 2013).

Also, the engagement of the team in the project plays a crucial role. Ken Wright claims that actively engaged team members are about 30% more productive than others. An effective creative leader makes sure, that all his team are willing to achieve their goal. It is also crucial to provide them with a positive working environment and make them feel great doing their job (Ken Wright, 2013).

I believe that an effective team led by a creative leader is the one that realizes itself as a united organism with shared goals. That is why it is so important to develop the creative leadership qualities in order to achieve something truly unique.


Design Indaba. (2013, May 2009). John Maeda on the importance of creative leadership. [Video file]. Retrieved from
Ken Wright. (2013, August 26). Leadership – Engage your Team – Create a Culture of Engagement [Video file]. Retrieved from


  1. Yana Kalashnikova · April 24, 2018

    I completely agree. I think that sometimes people that are in a leadership role forget how much power they have over how their team’s mindset is, or what kind of the view they might have about a project. I think that the positive mental attitude that is brought by the creative leader would make the team more engaged when working on a project.


  2. alexisdechampris · April 25, 2018

    It’s fascinating how adding one word, ‘creative’, can change the implications of what it means to be a leader. This picture you posted is really interesting in that regard, as well as the video! As a whole, I reckon being a creative leader must be difficult, but though I only speak in the perspective of a follower (though I wish to change, that is one skill I want to work on), I would think that one of the most difficult aspects could be engaging those who work with you. In my opinion, a great leader is a person to who I can look up to and be inspired by, and importantly when working with them, that I can be as engaged as that person in regards to reaching the goal. What about you? What do you think?


    • liza zhokhova · April 25, 2018

      I totally agree with you in terms of being engaged, and that’s basically the point I tried to make while writing the post. I think that a great leader builds a team that works all together on achieving a goal because all of its members, including the leader him/herself, have a very clear understanding of why this goal is important. Leadership is not about commands, it’s more about, as you said, being an inspiration for all of the followers.


  3. ShehzorTK · April 25, 2018

    This is a really well-written post. I feel like traditional leadership really lacks in getting the whole team involved. Whereas a creative leader can very effectively provide everyone with the right kind of motivation to add value to each project. The only real motivation for someone working under traditional leadership is for them to not lose their job or possibly get a promotion in that kind of environment it gets very difficult for someone to do work that is truly inspired. This fact may not be of that much significance in the corporate but I believe that it makes all of the difference in the creative industries.


  4. wwwyasir · April 25, 2018

    I think being an inspirational creative leader is more of a bonus than being a plain old creative leader, whether you are indeed creative or not. Inspirational in the sense that the team under your watch would respect you greatly when you collaborate with them, and then others would look up to your example.

    While this is true, it does not always work. I mean, what if your teammates are rude and utterly disrespectful when they are supposed to be cooperative, and you need their said cooperation and collaboration in order to get things done, and done well? This, of course, when you become more of a traditional leader, calling the shots and everything.

    This reminds me of an episode of Friends when Monica becomes the head-chef of a respected restaurant, and every one of her co-workers hated her at first. Now, having a job like head-chef is a combination of being a traditional leader and a creative leader. You will have to follow the recipe while making new ones, mostly for specials. Anyway, what is my message? I don’t know. What do you think?


    • liza zhokhova · April 25, 2018

      In a way, I guess being a creative leader should ideally include many of the traditional leadership qualities. You are right, being a creative leader is a benefit which might help you achieve great things, but one should definetely consider those “tools” commonly used by tradition leaders. It’s funny that while discussing the topic I’ve got something like two different concepts of traditional and creative leader, even though in real life it might be hard to define them. The fact is that there’s no instruction for being a great leader and creativity will always help you to find your own way to lead.


  5. faizaanraheel · April 26, 2018

    Just as how a car with a super charged twin turbo engine wouldn’t run if it had no wheels, the same way an organisation wouldn’t run if all the employees don’t work together in achieving a goal, a good leader is one that motivates his comrades into fulfilling and meeting certain requirements at the end of the day, and also make them feel good about it and not just pushing through deadlines at the end of the month for that cheque everyone waits for. I agree with liza on this point that the word ‘creative leader’ is far more applicable in an organisation than a normal one, creative in this sense could also mean as to ‘how’ those requirements can be met. The solution is one, but the paths plenty.


  6. ryanbakerthefilmmaker · April 26, 2018

    Brilliantly articulated and I must agree with everything you have written here. Leadership is an all encompassing concept that must be treated with the utmost respect and responsibility. Leaders in the creative field and in all other fields for that matter need to utilize a creative approach to leadership in order to stay ahead of the curve. It is clear to see how much has changed in terms of leadership over recent decades, however much has remained the same . The characteristics of a good leader are basically unchanged through time and I do not believe these fundamentals will ever really change too much either. So all in all I think you have summed up my position in this piece and for that, I commend you.


  7. shahbanojawad · April 26, 2018

    Eloquently put. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post! There are all kinds of leaderships in the world of course, but as with everything else, when the word creative is added to it, the level of difficulty increases tremendously. For leaders in the creative media industry, the challenges are much higher and like you said, the goals far more difficult to accomplish. We currently live in an era of rapid yet disorderly change, in social and economic cultures and in global and local cultures and so John Maeda’s talk on creative leadership is vital to understand for anyone wanting to take on the role of a creative leader and to understand that the ‘dirty hands’ approach of creative leadership is needed across all sectors.


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