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Creativity – the unexpected trait of today’s business leaders

Creativity is not a trait limited to artistic careers, no, all leaders that succeed in the modern business world are creative, can pivot, can see the big picture and connect the dots that others cannot, and as Steve Jobs says, many feel guilt for having that vision.

What is creativity?

Ask any great thought leader if creativity is part of their process, and we bet even bank leaders like JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, or Zappos’ Tony Hsieh will tell you that it is what makes them successful. Many point to business acumen or education as critical to leadership, others believe it is in experience, but perhaps great leaders have something much more fundamental to being human – creativity.

In a Wired Magazine interview, Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Creativity is just connecting things

Watch a six year old paint and you see their creative juices flow – careful, tiny strokes make up a picture as the bite their lip, choosing just the perfect color. They are not quite grasping the psychological or philosophical importance of art, they are simply making connections – green is a tree, there is a tree in my yard that I like, and mommy’s hair is brown but not yellow, and if I make mommy this tall under the tree, she is smaller than the house, but bigger than the swing. Connections. A fundamental, core function of being human.

James Whistler once said, “An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision,” and it is arguable that vision and the ability to connect dots when others cannot (or will not) that makes a great leader in modern society.

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Often, creativity is seen as something limited to paint brush strokes or the design of a website, and is a concept owned by people in berets pondering the meaning of a flower, but we would argue that it is creativity that allows today’s great thinkers to see the connections and make them – Steve Jobs did not invent the MP3 player, the laptop, or even the tablet, he connected the dots to make them better.

Creativity is not limited to creative careers, it is inherent in all of today’s leaders, otherwise they would still be at the bottom rung of their company. As Ayn Rand said, “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”

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