I recently came across an interesting article by Lei Huang, Dina Krasikova, and Dong Liu. It’s titled, “I can do it, so can you: The role of leader creative self-efficacy in facilitating follower creativity.” They find that teams produce more creative work when leaders are highly confident in their own creative capabilities. Writing in the BPS Research Digest, Alex Fradera points out that this result is not necessarily what one might predict. the opposite could very well be true – leaders with confidence in their own creative abilities could focus on performing well individually, rather than faciliating the creative work of their team members. Fradera writes:
You could imagine the opposite to be the case: that creative leaders pursue their own creative ideas to the cost of supporting their followers, and are reluctant to view what their followers produce as creative, due to their own higher bar for what counts as such. No doubt such cases exist. But this study suggests that in normal functioning leadership contexts, managers recognise that the route for delivering the kind of work they care about is through their followers, so if they want creative results, they have to facilitate it, not produce it personally.
Naturally, a follow-up question might be: What builds a leader’s creative self-efficacy? How do you build up what IDEO’s David and Tom Kelley call “creative confidence”? I believe that you can only enhance your self-efficacy through action. You must learn by doing. If you engage in small projects that require you to exercise your creative muscles, and if you are provided support and training, you can produce good creative work and build your confidence. Practice, practice, practice. Stop believing that creativity is simply a genetic trait, and start acting in ways that prove to yourself that you have creative capabilities.