The 6 Conditions Required to Scale a Creative Leadership Culture

Guest post by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams:
We all look up to the great
leaders among us—the men and women who seem to have a knack for creating
inspiring visions of the future while building company cultures that bring out
the very best in employees. And while individual leaders are key to an
organization’s success, collective leadership effectiveness carries the day.
This means that companies are poised for even greater success when they scale their leadership, that is, when
they grow leaders throughout the organization and align them into a
collectively effective leadership system.
Leadership is ultimately
about scaling the capacity and capability of an organization to create outcomes
that matter most and to fulfill the vision of its desired future. However, the
ability of an organization to scale its leadership is in great degree limited
or enhanced by the dynamic between the two most common kinds of leaders
revealed by our many years of research: Reactive and Creative.
leaders emphasize caution over creating results, self-protection over
productive engagement, and aggression over building alignment. These
self-limiting styles overemphasize the focus on gaining the approval of others,
protecting oneself, and getting results through high-control tactics. Reactive
leadership inhibits collective effectiveness and does not scale leadership.
leaders, on the other hand, are less self-centric and are much more about
developing the capacity and capability of others and the organization. They are
approachable and skillful in working with people, listen well, build
high-performing teams, mentor and develop capability in others, and empower
their people. Creative leadership is built for scale.
To build organizations that
are more agile, innovative, adaptive, and high performing in today’s volatile,
uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, Creative leadership is
required. These new organizational designs simply cannot boot up on the
Reactive Operating System most leaders are running.  Reactive leadership is, simply stated, inadequate
to creating these kinds of cultures.
Leadership scales capacity
and capability in others, through teams, and in the organization by putting in
place these six conditions:
1. Creative leadership. This condition requires that the
leadership system of the organization undergo a fundamental shift from Reactive
leadership to Creative. Creative leaders inspire commitment and loyalty to the
organization and its mission. They also build an open, honest, authentic,
optimistic, generative, and innovative culture where the best ideas can emerge,
be implemented, and where everyone is encouraged to develop.
2. Deep relationship. Scale requires being in deep
relationship based on the firm foundation of trust, transparency, and honesty. Great
leaders foster deep relationship. It is foundational to courageous truth-telling,
getting the best thinking on the table, and innovating creative solutions to challenging
3. Radically human. Leaders who scale leadership start with
themselves. They let go and then learn out loud (publicly) while embracing the vulnerability
of not knowing. This requires more than simply learning new skills. It requires
maturing in the inner game of leadership, which requires a profound shift of
mind and heart.
4. Systems awareness. Highly Creative leaders think “big
picture.” They see and design systems for higher, more durable, and more agile
performance in a fast-changing world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and
ambiguous. Design is the primary determinate of performance.
5. Purposeful achievement. The very best leaders call us,
individually and collectively, to a higher purpose. They inspire us to give our
discretionary energy to a cause greater than ourselves. Being driven by
purpose, they turn that purpose into a clear, lofty, strategic vision that
translates into strategy and execution.
6. Generative Tension. Tension is a component in each of the
conditions for scaling leadership. Generative Tension is the gap between our
aspirations and our current reality. Great leaders cultivate this tension at
every level. They establish it by committing to what matters most, and by
fiercely and compassionately telling the truth about current situations.
seeds of growth are buried deep within every leader, but this growth can’t
occur without the right conditions and environment. It takes the right kind of leadership—Creative leadership—that can scale and
grow as these organizations themselves scale and grow. Creative leaders get a
large multiple on their leadership by developing and scaling leadership all
around them.
putting these six conditions into place, any leader in any organization can build
and scale a Creative leadership culture—leveraging the tremendous benefits that
are certain to be unleashed.
Robert Anderson is the founder, Chairman, and Chief
Creative Officer of The Leadership Circle and Full
Circle Group. William Adams is CEO
and co-founder of Full Circle Group and CEO of The Leadership Circle. Together,
they are authors of the books Scaling
Leadership: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes
that Matter Most
(Wiley, 2019) and Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough
Performance and Extraordinary Business Results
(Wiley, 2015).