Creativity and leadership have long been considered antonyms. Leadership is seen as something orderly – leaders have to know how their department or company operates, who is in charge of what, and how everything comes together. They have to make decisions that are safe for the company; risk-taking is done in a much more logical and thoughtful manner, because the entire fate of the company rests in the leader’s hands.

Creativity seems to be the exact opposite, because it is all about spontaneity and taking risks. Creativity leads to the formation of something new, which can’t happen without at least a small amount of risk, because even diverging from the norm is a risk in and of itself. Furthermore, the process of creativity is often seen as antithetical to the logic-driven decision-making process that leaders take part in; creativity, many say, comes from a different part of the brain. It’s spontaneous, rash and sometimes illogical.

However, the focus of David Slocum’s article “The Rise Of Creativity As A Key Quality In Modern Leadership”, which appeared in Forbes’ online edition in January 2015, says the seemingly impossible – that leadership and creativity are not only compatible, but inevitably intertwined. Slocum starts off by bringing up two famous examples of leaders that made history through their creativity – Henry Ford, who invented the assembly line, and Thomas Edison, who is most famously credited with the invention of the light bulb.

Two examples to not only show the benefits of creativity for business, but to illustrate the idea that creativity can also be orderly and logical – qualities that are typically seen as pertaining to leaders, not necessarily creative thinkers. Ford’s conception of the assembly line revolutionized manufacturing in the American industrial era, but he wouldn’t have done this without creativity – the ability to imagine something new and different. In combination with the leadership that it took to organize a company, this creative vision brought order in the form of an assembly line that maximized efficiency. Creativity doesn’t have to be an illogical or rash process – instead, it can exhibit many of the same qualities that leadership has.

Creativity and leadership grew to be considered so disparate, when they were originally complements in the rise of business and industry in America. In the 1960s as an era when creativity was seemingly prized, but society was rigidly structured and climbing up the “corporate ladder” was a orderly process. However, the 1960s also stood out as an era of creative advertising; in fact, the advertising industry stood out as an example of how creativity and leadership could combine to create something new and extraordinary.

Now, the focus is on creative collaboration, because businesses in the modern era have discovered that creativity is more strongly stimulated when working in a team. Leaders are expected to set a creative vision and work with their employees to make it happen; in turn, teams of creative thinkers work together to innovate and come up with new ideas for the business, especially in areas such as marketing.

Other than marketing, however, another major area where innovation and leadership collide is technology, specifically with the rise of large technology companies such as Apple and small start-ups in areas such as California’s Silicon Valley. Apple started as the shared project of creative thinker Steve Jobs and talented programmer Steve Wozniak – and today, the company is globally successful. In a similar manner, start-up businesses are becoming hotspots for creative collaboration, while never forgetting the original idea of orderly, logic-driven business that makes companies succeed for the larger public.

It is important to distinguish between leadership and management, as the two both hold creative connotations, but in different ways. Managers take care of systems and processes, while leaders are more focused on people; however, both of these ways of thinking about leadership should be combined with creativity, which has become the “new normal” for businesses.

In areas where business is not as successful as Silicon Valley, however, creativity has been seen to have a restorative effect on business as well. Considering Detroit, which has over the past several decades seen a slump in business activity, creative ventures are able to start new businesses and revitalize the economy. Creativity has the potential to bring much-needed capital to post-industrial cities, starting a revolution for the future.

Leaders should combine their thinking of the words “creativity” and “leadership”, and to not consider them antithetical anymore. Creativity and leadership complement each other and work together to help businesses and individuals succeed, and ultimately, leaders should strive to be both creative and logical, for the good of businesses everywhere.

EKI-Digital has worked with businesses of all sizes, and in various industries to help them benefit by designing, and deploying Change Management by leveraging our playbooks as a tool to improve how their business, run, grow and transform. If you would like to learn more about this service please contact us at info@eki-digital.com.