Creativity Inspired by Transformational Leadership

Blog Post by: Lawrence Jones, Ph.D.

Brown (2016) posits that leadership that inspires and motivates creativity is not about leaders becoming creative, but more about individuals leading for creativity (p.1). Bass (1985) proposes that a “transformational leader is one who is proactive and dynamic and inspires subordinates to do more than they are expected to do initially” (p.2278). Amabile and Khaire (2008) add that the element of creativity means the gift to create something novel (p.1).Appreciating what each person has to bring to the table of creativity is very vital to a leader promoting innovation within an organization. The importance of a leaders role is specifically engaging the right people to create a creative, competitive environment (p.3).

Black (2012) professes that countless articles and books have published about the application of creativity and innovation in business, industry, government, and education (p.13).He adds that various perspectives of creativity and innovation have debated in the literature depicting the varying values and depths to where creativity and innovation emerge. Identifying what enhances creativity in followers and what discourages creativity is crucial for leadership effectiveness for change.Gardner and Avolio (1998) acknowledge that transformational leadership has gained recognition in the literature as an inspirational and motivational leadership(p.36).

Over eight decades ago, Schumpeter (1934) proffered that the heart of entrepreneurship originates through creativity and networks, which can lead to innovation. (p. xxvii). A prominent thought leader in creativity, Owens (2011), professes that organizations may unconsciously kill innovation based on intrinsic culture practices (p. 6).Owens explains through his book, Creative People Must be Stopped,that some firms may be unaware that creativity is sabotaged by the culture that it supports or the attitudes held by management.He submits that six constraints can inhibit creativity in an environment, and those constraints are individual constraints, group constraints, organizational constraints, industry constraints, technology constraints, and societal constraints (p. 8).

Owens (2011) elaborates by commenting that the individual constraints are when individuals believe that they do not think they are different (p. 8).Another component is that groups can allow negative emotions to evaluate new ideas.Janis (1972) proffers that groupthink is a deterioration of mental efficiency in the interest of the group (p. 9).The next component of organizations is designed to produce consistent results (Owens, 2011 p. 9).Owens comments that innovation that threatens the output then it is doomed.Industries geared towards the economic status quo may be inconsistent with prevailing norms and ethics. New technologies require proven reliability and effectiveness (Owens, 2011, p.10).

Owens (2011) also proposes that a way to fix innovations is that an individual must improve their cognitive skills and recognize their value and relevant new ideas (p. 10).He expresses that groups must be designed to support collaboration, risk-taking, and transparent communication.Owens also posits organizations must support risk-taking and entrepreneurial endeavors.For industries, Owens asserts that the creation of new products, markets, and enterprises are essential.For society, new ideas must be considered legitimate and acceptable. Lastly, for new technologies, there have to be significant investment and development (p.12).

Transformational leaders should recognize the importance of creativity in advancing their organizational goals.By developing the ability to lead for creativity, they will be able to solve problems that matter and to compete effectively in a world where people are looking for products and services that meet their needs.Leaders should consider steps they can take to foster a culture where creativity thrives and adopt structures to support that culture.For example, some organizations may benefit from formally establishing creativity teams, whereas others may choose to have innovation departments.Multidisciplinary representation of creativity teams could enhance the efficiency of idea generation and commercialization planning as the various departments are involved throughout the innovation/design process.


Amabile, T. M., & Khaire, M. (2008). Creativity and the role of the leaders. Harvard Business Review.

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. Free Press; Collier Macmillan.

Black, R. A. (2012). Keep creativity alive. Communication World, 29(2), 13.

Brown, T. (2016). Teaching Creativity to Leaders. Harvard Business Review.

Gardner, W. L., & Avolio, B. J. (1998). The charismatic relationship: A dramaturgical perspective. Academy of management review, 23(1), 32-58.

Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of groupthink: a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes.

Owens, D. A. (2011). Creative People must be stopped: 6 ways we kill Innovation (Without even trying). John Wiley & Sons.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The theory of economic development: An inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle (Vol. 55). Transaction publishers.

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