Who are creative leaders? (Hint: Look in a mirror.)

[Call for Entries: The International Design Awards]

Creative leadership is one of those “you know it when you see it” kind of things.

We gravitate toward leaders, we want in on whatever they’re up to, we model their behavior. Think of the leaders you’ve worked with: No doubt you’ve emulated specific actions or beliefs that inspired or motivated you.

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Business magazines spill plenty of ink on what makes great leaders and how we all can build our skills. Today, there’s an emerging kind of leadership: creative leadership. Because they’ve come up through the creative ranks, these A-listers have an extra layer of awesomeness, bringing the baseline skills of a designer to a more business-focused role.

Who are these creative leaders, and how are they different?

They can re-frame problems. Designers are accustomed to helping clients see problems they don’t know they have. When creative leaders deploy that skill in other business units, they can help identify truly transformative solutions.

They’re aggregators. Creative leadership is about having the unique ability to mash a whole bunch of ideas together to come up with something new.

They’re collaborators. Designers are comfortable working across disciplines. They’re used to giving and receiving feedback on the work. The ability to foster collaboration is one of the essential skills of a creative leader.

They’re passionate. Most designers we know are deeply, personally invested in their work. As leaders, they have the opportunity to engage others with the same passion.

They’re intellectually curious. Creative leaders are hungry for inspiration, information, opportunities to try out a new skill or technique. Because they’re excited to learn, they find it stimulating to dive into other aspects of a company, be it sales or operations or production.

They want to make a difference. Designers are eager to deploy their skills to benefit their communities or their world — it’s why so many undertake pro bono projects and side gigs. In a business setting, creative leaders constantly ask, “What can we do to make this better?”

They persevere. Designers work in an iterative way, pursuing different directions, refining concepts, user testing, tweaking and revising. Creative leaders aren’t afraid to try, fail, regroup and move on.

Recognize those traits? You should. You have them. But you may not see yourself as a Creative Leader.

That’s where the REACH Conference can help. Expert speakers will help you translate the skills you already have into a new leadership role.

Whether your company has tapped you as a leader or you’re seeking that career step yourself, REACH will equip you with the communication skills, strategic thinking and management capabilities you need to thrive as a creative leader. Find out who’s speaking and what’s on the program, and make a plan to accept the challenge.