Does Creativity Limit Leadership Potential? Not a Chance, Says International Expert

Mar 15, 2011, 15:00 ET from Buffalo State College

BUFFALO, N.Y., March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gerard Puccio, chair of Buffalo State College's International Center for Studies in Creativity, has intensely monitored the attention given to a new study examining creativity and leadership perceptions.


The study by Mueller et al., which is to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, has caught the eye of many with the broad assumption that creative thinking stops individuals from advancing into leadership positions.  Puccio, a recognized international expert in creativity, has followed and studied the link between creativity and leadership over the last decade and has expressed serious reservations about the conclusions being drawn from this study.

"While this particular study does raise some important insights regarding the relationship between creativity and leadership, it is a gross exaggeration to conclude that creative thinking will stop individuals from advancing into leadership positions," he said. "What this study does suggest is that one's implicit theories of leadership have not kept pace with contemporary and emerging models."

Puccio added, "Leadership theories have evolved over time in relationship to the social context in which individuals lead. In fact, a growing number of researchers and scholars have argued that creative thinking is an ability leaders must possess to be effective in the 21st century."

IBM — which made global headlines last month for its development of the Watson supercomputer — recently concluded, through a global survey of more than 1,500 executive leaders, that in the face of increasing levels of complexity, creativity is now the most important leadership quality.  As this report noted, "CEOs now realize that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics. Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation.  To connect and inspire a new generation, they lead and interact in entirely new ways."

At Buffalo State's International Center for Studies in Creativity, research by Puccio and his colleagues — who polled more than 7,000 leaders from around the globe — shows that those in senior leadership positions express a statistically higher orientation toward visionary and creative thinking. "When we work with managers in corporations around the world, they consistently see the positive value of creative thinking in terms of leadership effectiveness," he said.

Puccio, who leads an academic department that offers the world's only master of science degree in creativity, has been at the forefront of recognizing the need for creative leadership.  In 2007, Puccio co-authored the book Creative Leadership: Skills that Drive Change.  A second edition was published in January 2011.    

"Creativity is much more than generating original ideas," Puccio said. "True creative behavior is about using imagination to resolve complex problems and to visualize new opportunities that are then brought to fruition. Creative leadership is an ability to apply creative thinking to move a group or organization in a new direction that, as a consequence, brings about positive change. And to survive in today's fast-changing world, this is exactly the kind of leadership organizations need."

SOURCE Buffalo State College