Shaping the Future: Creative Leadership

Richard Brennan

Richard Brennan, Chief Executive of Birmingham Forward welcomed delegates to this latest breakfast event, part of the Shaping the Future series a three way collaboration between Aston Business School, Birmingham Forward and Locate in Birmingham.

Richard outlined the aims of the event; to encourage critical thinking and to consider relationships.  He argued that as we face a decade of challenges, it is creativity and innovation that will separate the strong from the weak.

Innovation and Creativity at Work
Professor Mike West, Executive Dean, Aston Business School

Professor Michael West
Professor Mike West explained how we need leaders who are constantly able to think of new ways to add value, and who really listen to customers.  He argued that leaders need to be ‘relentlessly upbeat and confident’, doing the difficult, not managing the inevitable. 

In his presentation Mike outlined seven principles of leadership to help promote innovation and creativity within organisations:
  1. Have a vision

    Mike proposed that leaders need to be clear about their vision, they need to communicate it well, and they need to be courageous about the difference that the vision will make to the organisation.  He believes that motivation can come from an organisation’s vision.
  2. Decide to be a creative and innovative organisation

    Mike argued that one of the biggest barriers to creativity is the lack of confidence that people have in the organisation’s capacity to innovate and be creative.  Leaders must ‘drip, drip, drip’ the message of innovation, and reward and recognise those people who successfully implement innovative solutions.   
  3. Promote positive emotions and support

    Mike stressed that positive emotions are associated with creative thinking.  Research shows that job satisfaction is associated with better performance. Leaders have a responsibility to create an honest positive environment, where relationships are well managed.
  4. Build team work and seek diversity

    Teams innovate and implement ideas.  Mike stated that clarity of team objectives has been shown to be a clear indicator of performance.  There is also value in building teams that are diverse, but the key is to have respect for and value difference.
  5. Be persistent

    Mike recognised that coming up with ideas is easy, but seeing those ideas through requires perseverance and determination.
  6. Reflect, plan, act – reflexivity

    STOP! According to Mike leaders must take time out to reflect.  When times are tough it is just as important to stop and reflect rather then just working harder and faster.
  7. Sustain a culture of creativity and innovation

    Mike highlighted the importance of staff engagement.  Employees must have the capacity to engage. Leaders should ask – is there alignment between what employees do and the strategic objectives of the organisation.

Mike concluded by emphasising that leadership should be underpinned by values. Organisations which are value driven are more likely to be successful than those that are not.

Listen to Professor Mike West's presentation >

Relationship-based Leadership
Professor Robin Martin, Work & Organisational Psychology Group, Aston Business School

Professor Robin Martin
Robin began by looking back to the 1970s when leadership theory was dominated by top down approaches.  It is only within the last 30 years or so that subsequent theories have looked at relationships.

Robin highlighted the importance of interpersonal relationships at work using the results of a recent survey which showed that only around 8-10% of the conversations that people have at work are work related.  Therefore, in the other 90% of conversations people are building relationships, making it easier to engage in work related talk.

Robin introduced the Leader Member Exchange Theory, which focuses on the quality of the relationship between a leader and others in the organisation.

Robin reported that the quality of the relationship that an individual has with their manager is linked to the individual’s well being.  Research has also shown that a greater range of LMX i.e. the number of relationships that range from positive to negative, leads to more organisational conflict, lower levels of job satisfaction and higher levels of stress.

According to Robin we need to understand non-work relationships in order to understand work relationships.  Leaders need to work hard to nurture and manage relationships.  Leaders are unlikely to know if they have a bad relationship with a member of staff.  People talk to each other about the relationship with their manager, even more so if the relationship is bad, and this can lead to conflict and feelings of injustice.

Listen to Professor Robin Martin's presentation >

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