13 Principles of Creative Leadership

Singapore StrengthsFinder Creative Leadership Ideation

How can we differentiate creative individuals who are good and those who are great?  

I have a suggestion. Creative Leadership.

I believe Creative Leadership makes a difference. There are many who are creative but not every creative person possesses Creative Leadership. Many creative people often face challenges of having their imaginative ideas knocked down by others. It is never easy to have people buying in to a fresh and innovative idea which is more likely than not, unproven. Many creative people give up when they face setbacks. Creative Leaders do not. @@Creative Leaders influence with their ideas. They find different ways to get others to buy into their innovations@@. They are highly resilient. They have guiding principles and beliefs that help them overcome challenges and drive innovation. When no one believes in their innovative ways and ideas, Creative Leaders have these guiding principles and beliefs as anchors that motivate them to stay on the cutting edge. 

Can Creative Leadership be learned? I believe it can be. 

Recently, I was inspired by some simple but powerful creative leadership principles after finishing a book by the influential Paul Arden. As a Singapore Gallup StrengthsFinder coach, that book got me to think about how people can grow their Creative Leadership by intentionally engaging different strengths together. In StrengthsFinder lingo, the interaction between different strengths is called Theme Dynamics.

Inspired by the book, I connected 13 Creative Leadership principles I have learnt (over the years and through the book) to different Gallup StrengthsFinder Theme Dynamics, using the Ideation theme as an anchor. There is also an application question for each of the principles (I'm an Activator). While it is true that each of the 34 Gallup StrengthsFinder themes can be used to contribute in the area of creativity, I have chosen the Ideation theme as the anchor for an obvious reason - many people who are known to be creative and innovative have the StrengthsFinder Ideation theme in their top 5 StrengthsFinder results. They are full of imagination. 

How can those with Ideation grow in their Creative Leadership? 

Principle 1: My vision is the greatest creative asset I have. 

Ideation and Futuristic: As an Inventor and Creator, my vision is the greatest asset I have. I can dream about that one idea that can break new grounds. I can dream about the product or service I can create that will change the world. I can dream about the positive culture that I can create. The people who succeeded believe in a world that can be co-created. They believe in a world of possibilities when others do not dare to dream. 

Application: What ideas can I act on now and what new ideas do I need to move towards my vision?


Principle 2: Aim for the unachievable!

Ideation and Achiever: As a creative individual, I need to aim beyond what I am capable of. I need to develop a complete disregard for where others say my abilities end. I need to develop great ideas and ways to do the things I feel I might be incapable of. Why not aim to be on the cover of Time magazine 100 Most Influential People? Nothing is impossible. 

Application: What is one achievement I desire and how can I brainstorm different ways to achieve that?


Principle 3: My innovations are cutting edge.

Ideation and Self-Assurance: The fact is that the cleverest people in school are not necessarily those who achieve success in life. I can be confident of my creative abilities and the innovation I bring to any team. I am confident in taking risks. The creativity I possess can break through many boundaries and barriers. I can be the Creative Pioneering Leader. My innovations will always be cutting edge.

Application: What is one area that I can pioneer using my innovative ideas? 


Principle 4. Seek feedback (and embrace criticisms).

Ideation and Input: As a creative person seeking for excellence, I need to be open to feedback and criticism and having people tell me what's the problem. When I accept criticism. I am more likely to get improvements on my ideas. I am still in a position to reject the criticism if I think it's wrong. Creative Leaders exercise humility.

Application: Who can I get feedback from on growing my ideas and improving on my delivery? 


Principle 5: Take extreme ownership

Ideation and Responsibility: I must imagine I’m a Navy Seal. I'm fighting at the front line. There is no time to play the blame game. Whenever a problem arises, I must accept full responsibility even if I'm only partially involved. By doing this, I'm always in a position to do something to resolve any issues and I can make a positive difference. Creative Leaders must have extreme ownership.

Application: What issues do I need to start owning so that I can drive solutions and implement ideas?


Principle 6: Give away everything I know!

Ideation & Command: I must learn to give away everything I know! It takes courage to do that but eventually more will come back to me. I cannot be a hoarder. The problem with hoarding is that I end up living off my reserves and soon I'll become stale. If I give away everything I have, I will be left with nothing. Giving away everything forces me to look, to be aware, to replenish. Clarity comes from an uncluttered mind. Eventually, I will train myself to be sharper than those who simply take ideas from others.  

Application: Who can I share my ideas with so that my innovations can reach more people?


Principle 7: Act on the opportunity you have now!

Ideation and Activator: I must make use of the opportunity I have now to contribute my creativity. The opportunity is right here. I don't need to look for the best one. I can make full use of the opportunities I have now and make the best I can towards contributing creatively. The results might not always be great but at least I will get the satisfaction of trying out my ideas. Over time, I will gain the experience of knowing what kind of opportunities I can grab and what kind of ideas I can easily implement to have quick wins. That will help me mature as a Creative Leader. Gaining a quick momentum is a critical way to pull apart from competition. 

Application: What is one area of opportunity I have now where my ideas can be used? 


Principle 8: Don't take "NO" for an answer!

Ideation and Strategic: I need to keep pushing through for a YES. I need to find alternatives. I need to find a path that will bring a YES! I need to have a resilient mindset and keep exploring new grounds to advance forward. When people say it can't be done, I need to do it. If I don't do it, it doesn't exist. I will be known to be the kind of Creative Leader who creates a path towards success.

Application: How can I brainstorm to work around this roadblock and find a better way?


Principle 9: Failures can give birth to great ideas!

Ideation and Learner: I can learn a lot from my failures and I need to get used to not getting it right. To hone my creative skills is to pick myself up and to learn from every experience. I must intentionally learn from others as well. I can brainstorm better ideas because I grew smarter and wiser. Creative Leaders bounce back up to produce even greater innovations.  I will be the Creative Leader who broke through because I never gave up learning.

Application: What is one past idea that I felt great about but it failed? How can that idea be fine-tuned and improved? 


Principle 10: Don’t just give a speech. Put on a show!

Forget double shot. Strengths Mug makes your coffee strong!

Forget double shot. Strengths Mug makes your coffee strong!

Ideation and Communication: I must accentuate the positive. I can dramatize what is right. Wow a crowd and bring in the positive emotions. Exaggerate an action. Ideas are often captured by the fresh emotions presented in captivating ways! I will be the Creative Marketing Leader who can sell ice to eskimos. 

Application: What is one thing I can talk about and how can I create ways to catch people’s attention?


Principle 11: Work with the Best (even if they are weirdos)

Ideation and Maximizer: I need to work with the best creative people. Sometimes they might be difficult to work with but most of these people have excellent qualities that I can learn from. And the fact is, it's probably better than working with Mr Average Nice Guy. Iron sharpens iron.

Application: Who is one creative person I can reach out to have a brainstorming session?


Principle 12: Be a Legend!

Ideation and Significance: Most of us want to work for great companies and great teams. Start thinking and behaving like a winner. I need to stop expecting my managers to lead the way. They are too busy trying to run the company. I need to decide that I'm going to make the company great or at least make a difference. Many companies and great teams are usually built on one or two persons. I must be that person or one of them.

Application: How can I create a legacy in my company through my innovations? 


Principle 13: 'ASTONISH ME!’

Ideation and Individualization: Make people feel special! It is about the end user. It is about the individual. Products that are highly customized to fit the uniqueness of the human race catch the consumers by surprise. 

Application: How can my ideas be so highly customized that they will have the WOW factor? 


Concluding Thoughts: When we leverage our different strengths and engage them together intentionally, we produce a greater performance. Creative leaders do that regularly and produce consistent outstanding innovations. When they face setbacks, they overcome their challenges by intentionally engaging their different strengths. 

"How can you intentionally engage your strengths to drive innovations today?" 


Written by Victor Seet
Activator • Communication • Strategic • Self-Assurance • Command

As a Gallup Certified Singapore Strengthsfinder coach, Victor is passionate about strengths engagement and now runs his own training company, Strengths School™ (strengthsschool.com), based out of Singapore. He has been actively giving Strengthsfinder leadership and team building workshops to businesses and schools in Singapore as well as Hong Kong, China (Shanghai) and India.