10 Keys to Leading Creative People

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I’ve had the opportunity to lead a number of creative people over the last 15 years both in ministry and in the marketplace. And, from time to time, I’ve been known to be a “creative” myself. Creatives are different. They deliver new ideas and approaches, but they come with their quirks. You can’t lead creatives like you lead “normal” people.

Within the church, don’t assume creative people only work in your worship arts area. They’re likely to hangout there, but it’s also very possible they’re on just about every ministry team at your church. They may not sing songs or draw pictures, but they’re still creative. And, if you don’t learn how to lead them, they’ll find someplace else to take their creativity.

Here are some reminders for leading creative people:

  1. Tell them what to do, but not how to do it. You can hold them accountable for the results, but don’t force them to embrace a certain process.
  2. If you want their input, you’ll need to ask. If you stop asking, they’ll stop contributing.
  3. If you ask, you better consider their input. If you’re not really going to use their input, it’s better not to even ask.
  4. Know that they’ll be emotionally attached to what they create. So, if you decide not to use their creation, you’ll have to process that appropriately and not abruptly.
  5. You need to give them a deadline, but it better be reasonable. Creative people need room to dream and let their ideas percolate.
  6. Don’t try to motivate them with money, but they do want your praise. They’ll react when the extrinsic rewards are taken away, but they’re really intrinsically motivated.
  7. They’ll get easily bored if they find themselves stuck in the routine. They need the freedom to take on new challenges and opportunities and hate to get stuck in maintenance mode.
  8. They deliver new ideas, but they dread the details. To bring the best out of them, you need to protect them from the bureaucratic structure and administrative tasks.
  9. They need a creative and participative environment. Creative people need the fuel that other creative people generate.
  10. You need to provide boundaries, but they need to experience freedom. Boundaries force people to get creative. That’s when the best ideas are generated. But if creative people ever feel restrained, at best they’ll start to sulk and at worst they’ll join another team.

Do you consider yourself to be a creative person? If so, think about the best leader you’ve worked for. What did they do that brought the best out in you?

Do you lead creative people? If so, think about your most creative person on the team. How do you lead them differently to get the biggest impact from their contribution?

Let’s get creative about leading creative people.

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About Author

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.

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