Close this search box.
Close this search box.

4 Ways to Become a Creative CEO — Even If You Think You’re Not One

Contrary to conventional wisdom, creativity can be learned. Follow these principles to master your ability to innovate and find one-of-a-kind solutions.

Want to know your biggest mistake as a CEO? It’s assuming you’re not creative. You are. You’re just using the wrong semantics.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity isn’t about visual design or artistic ability. We’re taught creativity is an innate gift, but it can be learned like any skill. Creativity in business is about problem-solving, inspiring others, and pivoting on dimes. And with a global pandemic whirling around us, all CEOs can benefit from developing their ingenuity.

If you want your company to get ahead, you’ll need to invest in being creative as a leader.

Harnessing Creative Leadership

What’s a creative CEO? It’s the leader who constantly looks for ways to differentiate. It’s the founder who connects with audiences emotionally, builds memorable connections, recruits superstars, and makes lasting impressions. It’s also the CEO who is more apt to stay ahead of the pack, as determined by LinkedIn Learning research, which dubbed creativity the most important skill anyone can possess.

The biggest upshot to being creative as a leader is that you’ll connect with others on a visceral level. As such, you’ll enter markets in unique, innovative ways. Employees, colleagues, future prospects, shareholders — they’ll be drawn to your words and actions because you’re not peddling the status quo.

The benefits of creativity extend beyond that. It’s also the secret sauce to higher fiscal performance. McKinsey probed into what made certain organizations stand out and discovered that creativity was the shared thread that ran through highly profitable corporations.

How to be More Creative

Want to beef up your creative leadership skills? Follow these principles to master your ability to innovate and find one-of-a-kind solutions:

1. Seek inspiration everywhere. Want an inspiration kick? Look at what executives in other industries are doing. For instance, take a hard look at retail. How are brick-and-mortar stores innovating in the age of Covid-19? What are their tricks to making and keeping customer connections when brand loyalty is on rocky ground? Use what you learn to inform your own business practices.

2. Embrace workforce diversity. As author Scott Belsky discusses in “The Messy Middle,” amassing a diverse group of employees is an investment in creativity. Without access to differing viewpoints, you lack perspective and can’t be innovative. Heterogeneous teams outperform homogeneous ones, so if you’re not already working toward bringing together people with various backgrounds and experiences, make it a priority.

3. Read and discover. Reading cultivates ingenuity. Set aside daily reading time, but don’t worry about choosing a particular genre. Read fiction, biographies, even old comic books. Your objective is to have an “aha!” moment of connecting one idea to another. Picking up a book can provide the spark to finally solve that conundrum you’re tackling.

4. Schedule mental and physical breaks. Time management has been shown to nurture creativity because it gives unexpected solutions a chance to rise. Creativity requires energy, and that means giving yourself time and space to refresh. I block off three-hour windows several times a week to conserve my cerebral currency. During those times, I mull over CEO riddles. Often, answers magically appear because I’ve given them time to percolate.

Being creative as a leader is vital, especially today. Stop saying you’re not the creative type. Instead, pursue creativity and its inherent payoffs.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.