5 Quandaries of Leading Creative People

And, a few thoughts which could help

ideas spinning

Leading creatives can be difficult. In fact, I love having creatives on the teams I lead, but, honestly, they can make leading much messier.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the top Google definition of a creative:relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Creatives’ minds are always wandering. It makes leading a team meeting harder. They get bored easily. They are never completely satisfied with their work – and often with the work of others.

And, before you creatives get too defensive – just so you know…

I’m a creative.

I’m not an artsy creative. I don’t paint, do music, etc. And this always confused me and kept me from considering myself one.

But, I’m a dreamer. I have a vivid imagination.

I’ve never met a day I didn’t have a new idea. My mind wanders quickly — randomly — often.

Wait, what were we talking about?

Oh, yea, creatives.

But, when I began to understand these things about myself it helped me understand the minds of other creatives on our team.

And, the main reason I love creatives being on the team is they bring new ideas. They stretch others. They add energy. They challenge mediocrity.

One huge paradigm for me, however, was realizing the quandaries of being a creative. I think this is the word I’m trying to illustrate. A quandary — “a state of perplexity” — confusion.

It is in some of these quandaries which might makes us creatives more difficult to lead.

Consider what I mean – and see if this is familiar with you – or the creatives you lead.

Here are 5 quandaries of the creative:

1. We don’t like boundaries, rules, policies (and we may test them or rebel against them)  but we need them in order to be effective.

The fact is we need deadlines. We don’t like deadlines, or being held to them, but deadlines are usually the only way to keep us on task, so we actually crave someone to give them to us. We need to know what a win looks like. We need – dare I say it – structure. We don’t need needless rules – we need healthy rules which empower more than limit or control – but, we produce our best for organizations and teams under some restrictions.

2. Sometimes our minds wander in so many directions, with no clarity, that we can’t even catch a single thought, and nothing makes sense other times the idea is laser-focused, and we can’t write, paint, draw, or sketch it fast enough.

Which is why even within the deadlines we need freedom to decide how and when we do our work. Creative flow doesn’t always happen in cooperation with standard office hours.

3. We have lots of ideas – they are endless. Ideas come fast; really fast, too fast sometimes. As fast as they arrive they’re gone if we don’t record them quickly, but sometimes we can’t get them out of our head and onto the canvas, or put them into a format which helps you understand what we are even thinking.

Which is why having us on teams can be beneficial, especially when there is more than one creative on the team. We like to process our ideas – often out loud – with others. And, even when we don’t feel like it – we probably really should. It helps eliminate confusion later. Brainstorming can be loads of fun and beneficial with a room full of creatives. (We will need more structured people to help make sense of things.)

4. Nothing we observe is ever wasted, every new thing we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, can lead to another idea but it also means our mind is never still, and if we are forced still long enough, we become very bored.

Long meetings lose us. Long emails never get read. Details make our heads explode. Leading creatives really does necessitate creative methods of leading.

5. We are tremendously flexible in our imagination – in the things we can dream about or create, but we can often be dogmatic in protecting our original ideas, and inflexible when it comes to changing them.

It’s true. I admit it. We actually like change, but can resist on changing our “masterpiece”. Don’t be afraid though to challenge us to improve. It is often just the push we need to get to our best work.

Have you noticed these quandaries? Any others?

Do you see how we could be more difficult to lead?

These quandaries of creatives can actually produce the challenge in leadership – the quandary of leading creatives. Within each quandary is a decision I have to make as a leader — knowing when to place boxes around them and when to give them free reign, etc.

It can be difficult. A friend of mine said recently, “The most difficult person to lead is myself.” I agree. It’s sometimes a quandary.

But, it often begins with an understanding – of the quandary – and ultimately of the people we are attempting to lead.

Related Posts

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have you Subscribed via RSS yet? Don't miss a post!

10 thoughts on “5 Quandaries of Leading Creative People

  1. Hi Ron,

    As our church weekend worship teams have become more collaborative over the last year, we've found it a good practice to have periodic "blue sky" sessions centered around the upcoming weekend services. Creatives from our music, production, teaching, writing and graphic arts teams, plus a handful of others, meet every two weeks for 90 minutes to solve a creative problem. We are presented with the challenge when we get there — no prep work involved — and can continue the discussion afterward via Basecamp. We are able to spend time during that meeting poking around the web or on Pinterest, doodling on the whiteboard, or whatever helps us generate ideas.

    Having that time to look forward to every two weeks makes it a little easier to work within the rails of our day-to-day and weekly rhythms. And some of the goofiest ideas tossed out in those meetings have provided the genesis for creative solutions in our individual areas of focus.

  2. Ron – great post! Would love to hear your thoughts on how a creative rests, recharges, takes a sabbath, etc. I’m a “C” on the DISC inventory and often struggle in the tension of getting away from the ideas and being bored just relaxing. Any thoughts?

    • Yes very good suggestion. I was thinking about it too, as creative minds need some rest (I really know what i'm talking about… unfortunately). otherwise it leads to burn out and/or frustration.

      thank you again Ron for your posts !!