Unleashing Creativity Tips for Leaders

A reflection on Todd Henry’s lecture from his book, Herding Tigers, from GLS2019

It seems to me that creativity is hard to come by.  Creativity is suppressed in favor of productivity.  First it was in education, where creativity and imagination gave way to memorization, standardized testing and factoids.  And in adulthood, it is stifled by micromanagement, too much to do and deadlines.  But I believe we all have at least a spark of creativity still alive in us and only need a leader who can nurture that so we can grow into a more whole (holy) disciple.

What kind of leader do creative people need?  Ones that practice:

  1. Stability
  2. Challenge
  3. Loosening the grip
  4. Establishing the point of view
  5. Taking care of oneself

This might sound like a paradox, but Todd Henry says creatives need stability, a stable environment with creative boundaries.  Creativity flounders when the sky is the limit and flourishes inside boundaries.

Another necessity for the leader of creatives is that you staff needs to be challenged.  When you see someone creative, honest and kind critique will push them to greater heights.  They need that inspiration to aspire to higher things.

Where to start?  Trust. Henry says, “Trust is the currency of creative teams.  Without trust you can’t do wild, imaginative, brilliant, risky, world-changing things.”  Wouldn’t you like to step out of the maintenance mode of parish life, same ol’ same ol’, and offer creative, transformative formation to your parish?  Things that bring Jesus alive for your parishioners?  Things that tell the good news?  Setting the boundaries for your staff and then letting them do their job builds trust.

Henry drew a diagram for us that described the place of stability and challenge in different types of teams, from abysmal functioning teams to brilliant teams.  If the leader practices:

  • High challenge and low stability = ANGRY team
  • Low challenge and low stability = LOST team
  • Low challenge and high stability = STUCK team
  • High challenge and high stability = THRIVING team

Now, I’m sure you who are reading this would agree that we want a THRIVING team in our dioceses and parishes.  If you find yourself in the middle of an ANGRY, LOST OR STUCK team, you have some work to do on your leadership skills.

Try loosening your grip on the work.  No more micro-managing.  Micro-managing causes your employees to just give up and ask, “what do you want me to do?”  It kills creativity.

Have a clear, defined and communicated set of values, i.e. have a vision (which we’ve talked about before).  “A people without a vision, perish.”  Psalm 29:18

Finally, take care of yourself.  A leader without personal inspiration and passion cannot lead others to use their creativity and talents to the best of their abilities.

It’s the leader’s responsibility to create parishes that thrive by leading the creatives God has placed there.  We can help you develop the skills you need for leading and nurturing creative people in your diocese or parish.  Let us help.  Contact us.


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