Characteristics Of Creative Leaders

Characteristics Of Creative Leaders

This article is the second installment of our four-part series on creative leadership. Check out the rest of the articles in the series here: Creative Leadership (definitions of creative leadership and a selection of both historical and modern leadership theories); How Creative Leaders Live In Paradox; and 5 Influencers of Creative Leadership.


In this article, we will discuss several characteristics of creative leaders, including independence, generosity, purposefulness, and optimism.


Creative leadership is not industry-specific, nor is it one-size-fits-all. It is the individual act of a leader in the context of perpetual beta, and therefore path-dependent. In contrast to analytical forms of leadership, where the act of problem-solving culminates in one truth, Creative Leadership presupposes that the drive for a solution to a problem or challenge can have several outcomes and is to a significant degree shaped by the leader.


Although creative leadership is not exclusive to entrepreneurs, creative leaders share many characteristics of entrepreneurial behavior:

Ready to Adapt Changes –

Creative leaders find insights and ideas from unrelated fields, chance encounters, and the unexpected. They nurture broad external networks with the expectation that this builds significant future value, and they use open dialogue to tease out perspectives and ideas from others. They are comfortable with contradicting insights, paradoxes, conflicting needs, and ambiguity. They identify and challenge assumptions that underpin perceived realities.

Other leadership characteristics include thinking in contrary directions and deliberately rejecting conventional, inherited parameters. They are not satisfied with the first solution and search for better concepts that bring major improvement. They view life as a journey where opportunities for learning and development are always present. Finally, they intuitively sense new opportunities that could be created.

Creative Leadership Part 2: Characteristics of Creative Leaders
Creative leaders live in perpetual beta. They are never satisfied with the first solution. Click To Tweet

Clear Vision & Purpose –

Creative leaders think globally, strategically, and towards large impact. They have social awareness and holistic connectedness. They exhibit mindful self-awareness, being connected to what is happening in the here and now, demonstrate compassion for others, and exude a humble, open attitude.

A major characteristic of being a good leader is the ability to translate an appealing market opportunity into an enterprise concept that is innovative against incumbent business models. They can integrate large societal impact with attractive economic returns.

Creative leaders think globally, strategically, and towards large impact. Click To Tweet

Team Management & Empowering Skills –

Creative leaders are able to attract team members who raise the caliber and diversity of the collective. They are capable of designing creative processes that enable learning and improvement resulting in an accelerating rate of improvement, working toward a tipping point where change becomes unstoppable.

They know what key values are important in one’s life and act authentically upon them. Creative leaders are transparent and honest, with congruence between intentions, words, presence, and actions. They build an organizational culture that nurtures and cherishes the ideas of others, removes barriers, and structures incentives to reinforce the change that is being sought.

They provide the story, experiences, and motivations that empower the organization toward a common goal. They orchestrate the ecosystem of partners in the public, private and social sectors to bring systemic change.

4 Characteristics of Creative Leaders
Creative leaders empower their organizations by nurturing and cherishing the ideas of others. Click To Tweet

Calculated Risk Takers & Learners –

Creative leaders create urgency and shared inevitability to work towards a better future for all, thereby inspiring others to act. They dare to be bold in new areas, not limited by present logic or institutions, embracing fears rather than avoiding them.

They understand how to mitigate risks, with a head in the clouds and feet firmly on the ground. They are able to master execution in uncharted territory with imperfect information and limited control. Another leadership characteristic of a creative leader is the ability to maintain focus towards longer-term social impact while being resourceful in capturing opportunities as these arise and overcoming challenges to keep the enterprise afloat. They are good stewards of natural and manmade resources.

Creative leaders are able to master execution in uncharted territory. Click To Tweet

To strengthen your own creative leadership skills, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.