How creative leaders live in paradox

Menno van Dijk Grant Davidson 1
November 28th, 2017
Article by: Menno van Dijk, Grant Davidson, Valeria Mecozzi
How creative leaders live in paradox

This article is the third 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); Characteristics of Creative Leaders; and 5 Influencers of Creative Leadership.


In this article, we will take a look at some of the paradoxes that creative leaders are faced with, and how dealing with these paradoxes builds individual leadership style.


The more systemic and volatile challenges of today require change at the core of what leaders are doing, feeling, and thinking, and call for a tailored approach. Creative leaders deal effectively with paradoxes, intuitively combining:

  • Clash and Flow – the best ideas are found through passionate debate, and the creative collision of perspectives. At the same time, creative leaders know how to make people feel safe, and support them to achieve their fullest potential and bring teams to a state of flow and creativity.
  • Vision and Presence – always engaged in the present, combining a grand vision for a better future with immediate action-orientation and compassion for the here and now.
The best ideas are found through passionate debate, and the creative collision of perspectives. Click To Tweet

  • Strategy and Serendipity – creative leaders combine strategic planning and embrace moments of serendipity, following the energy of (market) opportunity.
  • Pride and Humility – creative leaders work on shared bases of admiration and deep trust for their co-workers. Pride, however, doesn’t come with judgment. No one is perfect but a team can be.
  • Provocative and Tolerant – creative leaders are independent thinkers that hold strong opinions and are never afraid to challenge others. Yet they have deep respect for diversity of viewpoints, and remain open to learn and reframe their beliefs.
No one is perfect, but a team can be. Click To Tweet

  • Experimentation and Perfection – Creative Leaders are adaptive to experimentation and appreciate the learning that comes from failure. They also strive for perfection in execution.
  • Rigor and Fun – creative leaders strive for mastery in their practice, and embrace the playfulness of creation and fun in collaboration.
Creative leaders strive for mastery in their practice, and embrace the playfulness of creation. Click To Tweet

Building on the styles of Transformational Leadership and Authentic Leadership, Creative Leadership goes further by understanding the interdependency of its actions on larger ecosystems, reframing competition into collaborative relationships, and treating experimentation, failure and learning as an implicit state, rather than a reward structure. Creative Leaders feel a need for change and allow people around them to feel safe about that change.

To learn more about creative leadership and refine your own creative leadership skills, find out if you qualify for the THNK Creative Leadership Program, a 6-month part-time learning journey to help you realize your fullest creative leadership potential and scale your world-changing enterprise.