Creativity and Leadership – When Leadership is Like Writing a Song
I was talking with a friend of mine today about the creative process. He’s a musician, and he’s been working on a new song. Last time he worked on it he thought he made a breakthrough; this time he thought maybe he had created two different songs. He was feeling stuck. I described how what works for me when I write is to let ideas sit a bit, then come back to them later and see what makes sense. Sometimes, without realizing it, I may put a number of different ideas into one proposal, for example. When I come back to it it’s often clear to me what belongs in that proposal, and what doesn’t, or what might be a different proposal. ”I do that with my songwriting all the time!” he said. “I love it when that happens – that moment when you realize what to do. That’s what makes it fun to be alive.”
I loved the way he said that. It’s so true, it is what makes it fun to be alive, or at least one of the main things, in my book. That moment, after you’ve been looking for a solution to something, and you let it go, and then something just comes to you. It feels like a gift, a realization, something you receive rather than go after. It feels right. It’s uplifting.
In my experience, women leaders who know how to do this – to position their minds to receive insights – tend to be the most successful. These are women who know how to not over-think things, to work on a problem for a bit, and then let it go, until a moment when their minds are receptive enough for a solution to occur to them. Such as the woman who told me that if she didn’t work out on her treadmill every morning she couldn’t run her company, as it’s where she gets her best ideas. Or the one who told me she loves to travel, because it’s on planes that she lets her mind relax and allows insights to occur to her. These women regularly allow their minds to become receptive to fresh ideas and insights in response to the needs of their companies. Not only does this process make them very successful at what they do, but it’s enjoyable. It’s what makes their work exciting, and many leaders would say, like my songwriter friend, that it’s what makes it fun to be alive.
Why then, do people who know how to harness the creative process in this way, only engage in it during certain activities, or in response to certain contexts? Usually it’s what I describe as an unconscious competency – something you naturally fall into in an area of your life where you naturally let your mind relax, such as when you ski, or golf, or drive, or take a shower, for example. You’re not consciously aware of what your mind is doing during these activities, so it looks to you like the creative ideas and insights are coming from the activities. We’ve all heard of the athlete who gets ‘in the zone,’ and is quite successful at his sport, but finds the rest of his life unmanageable. Similarly, many leaders I have worked with only allow their minds to receive insights when engaged in certain activities, and in response to compartmentalized areas of their lives, such as the organizations they lead.
I often see a dramatic change in how leaders engage the creative process when they learn about the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought (MCT Principles). These Principles provide a unified, scientific explanation of where experience comes from, including these kinds of insights. They give you just one place to look for your experience, and whenever your interest is focused in one place, your awareness becomes deeper and broader; it provides an awakening. In this case, it awakens you to the workings of your own mind. As you look toward how these principles are unfolding moment-by moment to create your experience, you begin to see that, it’s not really the song, or the treadmill, or the airplane that leads you to your insights. It’s you. It’s your innate capacity to use your mind in different ways. One of those ways is to let your mind relax and become receptive, easily and naturally, without the use of complicated practices and techniques, and when you do that, you receive insights and fresh ideas. As you become aware of how nature designed your mind to work, you can make better use of these innate capabilities. And you will see that the ability to receive insights and creative ideas is not restricted to any one activity you engage in, or confined only to certain areas of your life.
The MCT Principles give leaders the ability to draw on their creativity more reliably, and to express it in diverse ways. Who knows, perhaps as more women leaders learn this, we’ll start writing some really good songs.