When we began the search for the answer to the question “What are the competencies of the creative leader?”, we set ourselves to task. We reviewed the academic literature on leadership, we spoke to multiple companies that aspire to develop their leaders and we worked with firms that specialize in leadership development.
From these multiple sources, we learned that leadership is context-specific, thus paradoxical: leaders that are successful in one context (such as a multi-national company) have no guarantee of being successful in another (for example, a public institution). We discovered that self-awareness is the cornerstone of leadership: great leaders are aware of what we call their ‘leadership gifts’ as well as their ‘learning edges’. And we found out that self-awareness helps leaders to build authenticity, as great leaders think and act from a place of truth within themselves.
Yet when we looked for the specific characteristics of a creative leader – the leader who can work in the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world of today – we were left wanting. We came across many interesting competency models, such as the ‘Be-Know-Do’ model of the US Military or the ‘Lead Self, Lead Others, Lead Business’ model used in many multinationals. Yet we could not find a compelling answer to the question, "What are the attributes of a successful creative leader?"
To respond to this challenge, we developed the THNK Creative Leadership Model. As we tested our emerging creative leadership model against some of our favorite creative leaders – leaders such as Steve Jobs, Mohammed Yunus, and Richard Branson – we found that our creative leadership model did a good job of pinpointing the attributes of the creative leaders that we are trying to nurture at THNK.