Tech Leadership: How To Be Creative

In tech leadership, you have to be creative.  How will you lead the new frontier, doing it the same old way?

Once, I had a job in which I had to come up with a new idea every day. At first, I thought, "This is impossible. How can I come up with something new every day?" I worried about it a lot. 

Then, one day it dawned on me that in our universe there is a new day every day. Every sunrise is unique. Every moment is unlike the last. Every human face is different. We are part of it, so we must have some of that creative ability, too.

After that insight, I changed. I did not magically come up with a new idea every day, but I no longer thought it was impossible. I knew it was possible.

To begin creating – first know that it is possible. Then be still and center yourself. Then get started.

Artists know this. Michelangelo expressed his experience of it when he explained that as he looked at a piece of marble, he saw the form already finished within it. His work was simply to chip away the outer casing.

An artist who designs window displays at a department store told me that when she first got her job, every time she changed a mannequin the dress would sell out of stock. Then she would have to change the display again. She got tired of changing the display so often and started using dresses that she thought wouldn't sell. No luck! Eventually she realized that it had nothing to do with the dress. What mattered was taking action.

She says it is the same with her art. If she just does something (even clean the brushes) the energy begins to flow. Taking action is like breathing life into the project and letting something else take over.

A yogic theory of aesthetics defines a complete aesthetic experience as one that includes nine "rasas." The word is translated "juice" or "nectar." In a loose sense, it could be called the nine flavors. These are: odious, terrible, erotic, heroic, comic, pathetic, furious, marvelous, and serene. Art has to have all of these woven together to create a complete aesthetic experience.

So, how does all of this apply to leadership? Do not get stuck in one style. Do not get stuck in terrible when you could easily be serene or comic when you should be forceful.

Use your creativity to find the right placement for even the most difficult person. In the hands of a great master, everything is of value. An artist has a lot of colors on the palette and an organization has a lot of different kinds of people. Like a good artist, the creative leader makes the best use of each one.

When making up a team to work together, it will be more interesting if there are different flavors of people. Think of it as cooking. You would never plan a menu of all potatoes. Do not plan a committee of potatoes, either.

A master chef will balance a meal to include the five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. When we look at a project in this way, we see the value of having different kinds of people in the group. We may not like someone who is sour, but that person might be exactly what is required to balance the committee. 

This is an excerpt from my book To Lead is to Serve.

Shar McBee: Leadership with a Twist of Yoga

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