Leaders in Creative Organizations
Creativity can be defined as an outcome that results from focusing on the production of new and useful ideas for development of products and services as well as processes and procedures (Torr, 2008). Creative organizations refer to those organizations that provide room for creativity to flourish. Most researchers have come up with findings in support of creative organizations. Proponents of this theory have argued that in today’s business world, creativity is the source of competitive advantage and that organizations that provide more room for creativity stand a chance of having unrivaled competitive advantage. On the other hand, there are critics who have faulted this notion by arguing that creativity is spontaneous, irrational, and hence difficult to control. The critics have therefore put forward the following arguments in criticizing leadership in creative organizations and especially in creative industries (Torr, 2008).
Conflict of dual goals of commerce and art
On one end, art is associated with exploration in which returns are uncertain and has no economic ends. On the other end, every business venture desires to exploit any opportunity so as to achieve maximum efficiency and profitably. Therefore, a leader in such organization is faced with these two conflicting goals, which are all important. A case in point is managers of theaters who would want to balance between achieving the best creativity for the clients as well as meeting the economic pressures of rising costs of operation. In order to generate high quality performance in actors, they have to come up with policies and practices that motivate the actors to perform their presentations creatively. However, the same manager has to ensure that the facilities are maintained, which is done at a cost and that the organization meets its profits targets. Therefore, the manager will at times sacrifice the creativity bit and focus on strategies that will promote the organizations profitability (DeFillippi Grabher & Jones, 2007).
As mentioned earlier, creativity requires a lot of patience and is characterized by uncertain returns especially in creative industries. Unlike science industries, in art industry, it is difficult to measure the progress of research and development as the members try to come up with new ideas. In addition, few organization leaders would be wiling to invest their funds in another person to enable them to come up with new ideas on how a certain task is carried out. Most leaders would rather develop their own ideas and pass them over to their subordinates because they believe that their own ideas will work. They also will be ready to assume responsibility if those ideas do not work as expected. This shows that as much as creativity is much needed in such organizations, the room for creativity is restricted by economic concerns (DeFillippi Grabher & Jones, 2007).
Organizational goals and control
One important aspect about creativity is that it develops out of accumulated creative thinking skills and expertise. This means that one must try out several processes and procedures and not be quick to judge the initial outcomes. In addition to achieving higher levels of creativity, one requires motivation to mobilize his efforts and make use of his capabilities. On the other hand, organizations have goals and objectives that are set and are to be accomplished within a given period. This therefore brings in to focus the conflict between meeting organizational goals and providing room for creativity. The more room for creativity is created the lesser likely the organization is going to meet its goals, especially when such creativity is on a broad perspective rather than incremental. This therefore questions the ability of creative organizations to meet their goals because the subordinates are often likely to veer off the targeted goals and objectives (DeFillippi Grabher & Jones, 2007).
Any organization that seeks to attain creativity must seek to employ creative people in its workforce. Previous research has shown that there are particular character traits that are associated with creative people. These include autonomy seekers, independent judgment and people who are comfortable to disagree with others if they feel they have a valid argument. Likewise, creative organizations should provide room for exploration and discovery without judgment. This means that in order to achieve creative solutions, an organization should encourage its members to try out other approaches that depart from the normal operations of the organization. The employees should be able to do this without worrying about being punished. Conversely, achieving specified organizational goals requires that the leader monitor the progress of activities and be able to direct when necessary. This faults the understanding of providing environment for creative leadership. Therefore, most leaders will always go against the rules of creative organizations if they are to achieve organizational goals and objectives in an effective way (Shalley & Gilson, 2004).
Organizational culture and climate
For creativity to flourish in an organization, the leadership needs to ensure that the working environment promotes creativity. One key characteristic of such leadership style is being able to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. This means that the level to which an organization tolerates uncertainty and encourages its members to come up with new ways of doing things will determine their level of creativity. If the employees have no fear of being punished by doing things differently, they will put more effort in coming up with new ideas. Therefore, the leadership should focus on promoting an environment whereby risk taking is encouraged. However, risk-taking environment has a disadvantage because the employees can involve themselves in activities that can greatly cost the organization. As the employees try new approaches, they may end up committing the organization to activities that leads it to many losses (Cummings, 1965).
Employee recruitment and training
The leadership can implement human resource practices that promote creativity within the organization. When recruiting employees, the human resource management can carry out screening on the potential recruits to identify those that are likely to be creative. However, the organization may not be successful in some occasions because it is difficult to identify creative ability within a short period of interaction. The leadership can also develop training modules that ensure that those selected are taken through courses that increase their creative ability. Training increases the incidence of creative thought whereby employees are trained on creative problem solving. As a result, the organization would have recruited creative individuals and trained them in a way to equip them with the necessary skills (Oldham & Cumming, 1996).
Job characteristics can also be a key determinant of creativity in an organization. Jobs that are more difficult and complex tend to influence employees to come up with creative alternative ways of delivering the output. On the other hand, simple and routine jobs may not be done creatively because employees find it easy to reach the end result. Therefore, they are not motivated to find alternative ways of doing things. This means that leaders can design their jobs to be complex so that employees feel challenged to design new ways of getting creative outcomes. However, some employees prefer routine jobs and hence assigning employees to complex tasks might lead to negative results. In addition, not all jobs can be done afresh which means that some jobs will always remain routinized (Shalley, 1995).
Rewarding of creativity
Generally, rewards are supposed to motivate people to achieve a certain expected behavior. Equally, rewards in a creative organization are meant to motivate the members to become more creative. However, rewards for creativity are more effective if they are intrinsic rather than extrinsic. The main challenge of rewarding creativity is determining the standard of performance. Employees can be motivated by the rewards to come up with creative ideas. On the contrary the ideas might not be helpful to the organization’s development. Therefore this poses a challenge to the leaders on whether to reward the effort put on creativity or whether to only reward creative ideas that are beneficial to the organization. On one hand, rewarding ideas that are only beneficial to the organization will discourage others from trying because their effort might not be appreciated. On the other hand, rewarding any effort invested in creativity might result in creativity without direction, which might not benefit the organization (Puccio, Murdock & Mance, 2010).
Alternatively, the leader might decide to reward certain acts of creativity according to his understanding and specification. This limits creativity because creativity involves coming up with new ideas and if some new ideas will be regarded as irrelevant, then the reward system will be discouraging to the employees instead of motivating them. This means that creativity will be based on the judgment of one person who might not understand all aspects of the organization. As a result, the objectives of the reward system might not be achieved (Puccio, Murdock & Mance, 2010).
Goal setting and expectations
Goal setting can be an important way of influencing creativity within an organization. Goals increase the employees’ attention and help them to focus on achieving a particular target. Clearly set goals often motivate employees to put more effort because they can identify the required outcome. As a result, they will work hard and will be able to monitor their progress by determining the already accomplished work and the remaining part. However, goal setting can also be a hindrance to creativity because the employees will feel restricted to a particular outcome. Therefore, they will not be as flexible as when there were no specific goals. Hence, when setting goals, the leaders should ensure that the employees are allowed to use different approaches to achieve the required outcome. In addition, the process of carrying out the task must not be an iterated process. Furthermore, the employees should be allowed to come up with new ideas that can be developed at a future date (Shalley, 1995).
Identity tensions and regulation
Creative workers are often faced with identity tension experiences. They have a desire to see themselves as distinctive and unique in their artistry. In addition, they desire to have an opportunity for self-expression and passion in their art. A part from having their own identity, creative workers are also required to adopt the identity of the organization. This includes meeting the demands of task deadlines, working in line with the organizational goals and culture, client satisfaction and market demands. Therefore, leaders in this sector always have the challenge of integrating the two identities of art and business. Furthermore the managers find it had to determine how to apply control to meet these conflicting expectations and values (Gotsi et al., 2006).
Various studies have been carried out to determine ways of dealing with the multiple identity demand. Some of the findings have suggested a number of strategies that can be used to regulate the identity tensions. There are some that focus on the management, which suggest that the leadership should use differentiation and integration. This involves training the workers to regard themselves as practical artists whereby they are to be managed as resources. This involves developing policies that will enable the workers to blend into the system. This is based on the notion that resistance occurs in organizations when leaders try to exercise more control than is necessary. Therefore, the strategy recommends that the rules and norms should be inclusive and accommodative to the various behaviors that promote creativity and art development (Gotsi et al., 2006).
Some of the elements of this strategy include helping the worker identify the individual in him or her, clearly defining the categorizations and affiliations of the groups that the worker can associate to and clearly outlining the vocabulary of motives of any rules introduced. Although this approach has the most benefits in managing creative workers, most managers have been unable to implement it effectively. The main aim of the strategy is to provide more autonomy to the workers in the belief that such freedom will be exercised to the benefit of the organization. On the contrary, some of the workers have ended up resisting when they feel their creativity is being frustrated. On their side the management has been accused of ignoring dialogue as a way of solving such conflicts (Gotsi et al., 2006).
Studies have shown that employees who receive the required supervisory support tend to be more creative than those that do not. This includes having leaders listening to the employees concerns and being available to respond to their queries. This requires that the supervisors be less controlling and supportive. In addition, the supervisors should be able to identify the employees’ aspirations to be able to guide them appropriately into their area of creativity. Although feedback is important in such a relationship, negative feedback tends to discourage creativity. Therefore, the leader needs to be skilled in mentoring to be able to present helpful advice to the employee. Furthermore, controlling leaders also affect creativity negatively because the employees feel there is no enough space to try out new ideas (Shalley & Gilson, 2004).
Transformational leadership in a creative organization
Transformational leadership entails personal and active relationships between leaders and their followers. Relying on a strong relationship, the transformational leader will seek to change the follower’s values and self-concepts into broadened and elevated needs and aspirations. As a result, the follower will be able to achieve higher need levels and potentials. The transformational leader tends to define the expected goals in simple ways and sets up challenging expectations for the subordinate to achieve. He actually allows the subordinate to strongly identify with his or her personal goals and hence be able to accomplish difficult tasks. Based on the characteristics of a creative person –like independence of judgment and preference of autonomy – this style is challenging because the follower will be forced to align to the leader’s way of doing things. For this type of leadership to succeed in developing creativity there has to be a blend between the leader’s aspirations and his follower’s (Lofy, 1998).
Transactional leadership in a creative organization
Contrary to transformational leadership, transactional leadership involves an exchange process whereby followers are rewarded for accomplishing specified tasks. The exchange relationship requires that the follower achieve an excellent performance and the leader reward the follower for the same. Therefore, the followers will be motivated to attain a higher performance each time they are promised a reward. Sometimes transactional leadership restricts creativity because the rewards are based on a performance that has been agreed earlier before the task is done. This means that the follower will be limited in his or her exploration because he or she would want to stay within the prescribed boundaries (Shalley & Gilson, 2004).
Group leadership in a creative organization
Creativity can occur in isolation; however, it is more likely to occur in a group. People generate new ideas in the process of interaction because employees depend on cues from others to develop their creative ability within the work environment. Many studies have shown that employees can be motivated to believe in their creative capabilities. Leaders can influence employees to think creatively by mixing highly creative employees with those who are not creative. The leaders will be acting as moderators whereby they ensure that the followers keep pace with the highly creative and regulating the speed that the highly creative pull the others. In addition, the leaders will be clarifying performance expectations as well as enhancing creativity acquisition skills. Therefore, with a team, the organization is able to generate many different ideas which it can evaluate to come up with the most effective ones (Summers & White, 1976).
Conversely, participative leadership can also be a hindrance to creativity in an organization. As much as leaders can play an important part in modeling creative behaviors, coworkers and teammates can also influence the behaviors of the team members strongly. Highly creative members can be intimidating to those members who have less creative ability. This might prevent the less creative ones from sharing their ideas because they often think their views are inferior. In addition, at group level, the leader often applies less authoritative styles of leadership. Hence, the level of respect from the followers might go down. For instance, a member who comes up with an idea can disagree with the leader and insist on his or her new idea. This might force the leader to apply more authority to bring things to order. Therefore, such a confrontation might affect creativity negatively depending on his or her influence on the members (Summers & White, 1976).
It appears that leadership in creative organizations is a very challenging task. Although several benefits have been identified that focus on enhancing creativity in organizations, some factors that hinder the development of creative ability have also been identified. Some of the challenges that fault the practicality of leadership in creating creative organizations include the following. Conflict of dual goals of developing art and commerce at the same time, lack of an enabling environment for creativity to flourish, routine jobs that do not motivate workers to be creative, fixed goals and expectations, identity tensions and their regulation, too much supervisory control, weaknesses of both transformational and transactional leadership as well as group leadership. In spite of all these negative factors, promotion of creativity in organizations is possible. However, the leadership has to determine how to balance the factors to ensure the required goals are met.
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