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In general, creative people are open to information and experience, have high energy, can be personally assertive and even domineering, react emotionally to events, are impulsive, are more interested in music and art than in sports, and finally are very motivated to prove themselves ( i.e., are concerned with personal adequacy).

Thus creative people tend to be independent, willful, impractical, unconcerned with money, idealistic, and nonconforming. Given that these tendencies may not make them ideal followers, the interesting question is: How does one lead or manage creative individuals? This question becomes even more interesting when considering the qualities of successful leaders or managers.

Successful leaders tend to be intelligent, dominant, conscientious, stable, calm, goal-oriented, outgoing, and somewhat conventional. Thus, one might think that the personalities of creative followers and successful leaders might be the source of considerable conflict and make them natural enemies in organizational settings.
Because many organizations depend on creativity to grow and prosper, being able to successfully lead creative individuals may be a crucial aspect of success for these organizations. Given that creative people already possess technical expertise, imagination thinking skills, and intrinsic motivation, leaders may take the following steps to successfully lead creative followers.

1. Set goals: Because e creative people value freedom and independence, this step will be best accomplished if leaders use a high level of participation in the goal-setting process. Leaders should ask followers what they can accomplish in a particular time frame.

2. Provide adequate resources: Followers will be much more creative if they have the proper equipment to work with, as they can devote their time to resolving the problem rather than spending time finding the equipment to get the job done.

3. Reduce time pressures, but keep followers on track: Try to set realistic milestones when setting goals, and make organizational rewards contingent on reaching these milestones. Moreover, leaders need to be well organized to acquire necessary resources and to keep the project on track.

4. Consider nonmonetary as well as monetary rewards. Creative people often gain satisfaction from resolving the problem at hand, not from monetary rewards. Thus, feedback should be aimed at enhancing their feelings of personal adequacy. Monetary rewards perceived to be controlling may decrease rather than increase motivation toward the task.

5. Recognize that creativity is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Although followers can create truly novel products, often the key to creativity is continuous product improvement. Making next year’s product faster, lighter, cheaper, or more efficient requires minor modifications that can, over time, culminate in major revolutions. Thus, it may be helpful if leaders think of creating more in terms of small innovations rather than major breakthroughs.

Bernard Taiwo
I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.