You know the one, where you put on your pith helmet, grab a blunderbuss shotgun in one hand and a machete in the other, and head off into the jungle, crying ‘Right-ho, lads, follow me!’
You bombastically blaze a trail into the wilderness, your team loyally following right behind you. As you hack into the vegetation, your people are trampling over the narrow path you’ve made, making it a little more worn, a little more defined, until finally a new trail is furrowed into the deep, dark depths of the unknown.
If your people are following directly behind you, then that’s not creativity, it’s conformity.
Sure, it may at first appear that you’re inspiring others to be creative – after all, you’re heading into No-Mans Land. That indicates exploring new territories, and being creative is all about exploring and discovering new things, right?
But if all your people are simply lining up behind you, they’re not being explorers and they’re not being creative. One person is doing it and everyone else is re-doing it.
And, just because you’re blazing a trail into the wilderness doesn’t mean you’re going to end up in the right place. Many pitch-helmeted explorers got lost and many headed into the unknown never to return.
The blunderbuss is dead. Maybe it was okay last century, but it simply doesn’t cut it for the twenty-first century. If you try leading creative people the blunderbuss way, they won’t follow you and they won’t play that game.
Leading creative people into the next part of this century requires more finesse. It’s very much like being a Hollywood producer. Why? Because Hollywood is all about the business of creativity. It taps into the potential of exceptionally creative and clever people, and lets them do their thing, but it directs and funnels that potential to become commercially successful.
When we think of Hollywood, we often think of actors, directors, writers, and set designers, all of whom are immensely creative. They’re the ones whose talents we see spring to life on screen – but there’s another major player in Hollywood, whose job is focusing and steering that talent towards a successful outcome. The producer.
The producer’s role is to bring the creative talents of those people together, let them do what they do best, and direct it so that the film pays dividends.
Like it or not, Hollywood is about making money from creative people. And you should like it: it allows many talented people to do what they love doing. Sure, you can train up your actors, directors, and set designers (and you should), but the key to getting business results is to orchestrate their talents and genius.
It’s important to build individual talents; it’s absolutely crucial to build the right leadership skills, the right environment, and the right processes. That will allow your creative people to thrive, with all their creativity, thoughts and ideas.
To lead creative people effectively, you need to be a nurturer and custodian of their talents. You need to be a mentor and a coach. You need to know how to inspire them, empower them, guide them, earn their respect, and then let them play.
The last thing you want to be is their boss. Respect and encourage their creativity, protect them against the corporate stuff and you’ll get the best from their creativity.
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