CEO’s Rank Creativity The Most Critical Leadership Attribute

Earlier this month some surprising findings came out of IBM's latest Global Chief Executive Officer Study. The study involved face-to-face interviews with 1541 CEOs in 33 industries and 60 countries. Similar studies were done in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Each time the CEOs have been asked to rank the most important leadership qualities for themselves and their organization in the immediate future. In this study, for the first time, CEOs identified the most critical leadership quality as creativity.

Here are the top ten leadership qualities which the CEO's identified as most important:

  • creativity
  • integrity
  • global thinking
  • influence
  • openness
  • dedication
  • focus on sustainability
  • humility
  • fairness

Why were creativity and global thinking ranked so high? Because even CEOs feel the pressure put on themselves and their organizations as a result of accelerating complexity. Eight out of ten CEOs expressed a feeling that complexity in their industry and marketplace would grow markedly in the next five years. Yet less than half of them felt prepared to deal with it effectively.

The IBM study refers to this as the "complexity gap." To overcome it, CEOs believe, both they, their leadership team, and their entire organization must be far more creative than in the past.

Creativity, as they define it, goes beyond innovation. Innovation is still key, in their minds. But an unprecedented level of creativity must be brought to innovation.

Innovation can no longer be just about products. Innovation is now just as vital in how we structure organizations, how we interact with customers, how we adapt strategy rapidly enough to stay abreast of mind-boggling change, and how we perceive our company's place in a global economic system.

Ten years ago, in the foreword to Systems-Sensitive Leadership I wrote:

This book is about the "Four Big C’s" of our day: change, complexity, confusion, and conflict. We are going through a period of human history when change and complexity seem to feed on one another. Complexity forces us to change. But change only makes things more complex. No wonder we end up confused. Nor is it surprising that conflict is on the rise. Confused people often end up at odds over the direction to take.

If that statement was accurate a decade ago, it's even more so today. In the years ahead leaders who succeed will not only be visionary, they will bring a level of creativity to that vision unlike any era of leadership in history.

Fortunately, the IBM study looks at a number of companies that are meeting the challenge of complexity and creativity and describes how they are doing it. To review the study, follow this link. It's in a downloadable format.


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