Thursday, May 22, 2014

Leading to Make It Safe for Creativity

"If we as leaders can talk about our mistakes and our part in them, then we make it safe for others." Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unknown Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Leaders are sometimes very stubborn people. They make mistakes, but then they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to conceal those mistakes. To some school leaders, showing that you are capable of making mistakes is revealing weakness. But, if you want to foster a culture of creativity and exploration in your school or district, you have to embrace your mistakes and display them. We display them by being open with candor with those we lead. By that very action, we demonstrate that trying and failing isn't the "unpardonable sin." As authentic leaders we must strive to make our mistakes public. We admit them; we learn from them. Creativity thrives within a culture that embraces failure as a product of experimentation.

A few years ago, when teaching my students writing, I emphasized repeatedly to them, that writing is about experimenting. It is about trying new combinations of words and ideas. I told them that means sometimes we write "drivel" and sometimes we pen words that inspire. But then I told them that "drivel" is a necesary part of writing. Just the same, mistakes are a part of leadership, and the wise leaders make them public. Authentic leaders that strive for creativity accept, acknowledge, and use failure, not hide it. We should always strive to make our mistakes public to those we lead. By doing so, we make it safe for others to be creative. Do you want your staff to approach problems and come up with creative solutions? Then perhaps you need to celebrate mistakes and failure through disclosure to make it safe.

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