How to motivate creative leaders

In every team there are always members who come up with creative and useful ideas more often than other members. These ideas are the backbone of innovation and are the foundations of new products or services which could give a business a competitive advantage. Creative employees however often underperform, this is often because most organisations do not have the right processes or leadership to make these creative ideas into actual innovations. This is also intensified by the fact that managing creative types of people requires special consideration. Psychological research which has been carried out for decades suggests that when it comes to abilities, personality and values, creative individuals tend to be quite different from other people. Here are a number of recommendations on how to get the best of your creative employees.

Ensure they are assigned the right roles – Employees tend to perform better when there is a closer fit between the role and their behavioural tendencies, regardless of the job or industry. Consequently, if you want your employees who have creative tendencies to do well, you should give them tasks that are relevant and important to them. Research has shown that although creative people are more likely to be more intrinsically motivated, they actually perform worse when they are not motivated intrinsically. This means that when you have disengaged creative employees, there is also a higher cost and productivity loss, however when they are engaged the benefits are higher.

Create a team around them – Innovation always comes about as a result of people combining their different skills and abilities in order to make creative ideas actual products or services. If for example, you had a whole team of solely creative people, very little would actually be accomplished. However, if you had a team made up of for example creative people, employees with networking skills, employees who are good at implementing etc, the team will get so much more accomplished. It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, creative employees will always prosper if they are part of a team that will be able to make their ideas come to life.

Reward Innovation – There is little point in praising creativity if you then give employees rewards for doing what they are told to do. This will only frustrate the creative employees as they will feel as though they are underutilised. On the other hand, if you incentivise employees to think outside the box and come up with new creative ideas, even your employees who would not be naturally creative, will try to contribute to innovation.

Tolerate them to an extent – Everybody has bad days. However, research has shown that creative people are by nature, harder to please, irritable and moody. They may also come across as odd and can tend to make simple things harder as opposed to the other way around. These tendencies are often part of what makes them creative, as those who defy the norms and question the status quo are the ones who push for innovation. If you only choose employees who do exactly what you tell them, innovation is unlikely. There is no excuse for behaving badly at work, so they should only be given a little leeway not free reign.

Challenge them – No matter what type of employee or person you are, one of the main things that can make a person lose motivation is being asked to do very easy work which does not challenge you, this is especially true when it comes to creative employees. Studies in the US has shown that just under 50% of employees think they are overqualified for their current jobs. As a leader you need to push your team out of their comfort zone as this is how they learn and improve, if you don’t do this, employees will become ore disengaged and have poor psychological health and your organisation will have high levels of turnover. Research has found that if organisations promote a culture of support and provide personalised development plans and mentoring, they will benefit from better creative performance.

Apply pressure – Research has shown that employee’s wellbeing can be harmed as a result of working in a high-pressure environment, and as a result their productivity will be negatively impacted. However, when it comes to being creative, a little pressure can be helpful. There is in fact evidence to suggest that there is an optimal amount of pressure which is needed to drive creativity. If there is not enough pressure, a lack of motivation can occur, alternatively if there is too much pressure the employee won’t be able to think creatively. Managers need to get the correct balance here.

Promote cognitive diversity – When hiring a new employee, culture fit is hugely important. There has been evidence to suggest that employees whose skills and psychological profile are in line with the organisations culture, that employee will be more motivated and productive. If an organisation wants to be innovative, they need to promote cognitive diversity. Leaders in these organisations need to create teams with members who have compatible, but different psychological profiles. These teams are more likely to look at problems differently and come up with better solutions.

Humble – Often, narcissists become leaders. However, this type of leader is rarely more creative. If a leader wants to produce a creative team, they should focus on humility. Studies have found that a leader’s humility was an important indicator of the creative output of teams, as they bring out feelings of trust and cooperation.

Organisations continue to be at risk of loosing their most creative employees and so being able to manage and retain creative employees is crucial. Turning creative ideas into actual products or services is incredibly difficult and needs a strong leader behind it. For more information on our leadership/Team coaching click here and for more information on our search services click here or email


RFC. 2018. How to recruit for cultural fit. [Online]

Hu et al. 2018. Leader humility and team creativity: The role of team information sharing, psychological safety, and power distance. Journal of Applied Psychology. Vol 103(3), p313-323.

Verquer, M et al. 2003. A meta-analysis of relations between person–organization fit and work attitudes. Journal of Vocational Behaviour. Vol 63(3), p473-489

Furnham, A. 2015. The Bright and Dark Side Correlates of Creativity: Demographic, Ability, Personality Traits and Personality Disorders Associated with Divergent Thinking. Creativity Research Journal. Vol 27(1), p39-46

Chamorro-Premuzic et al. 2018. Motivating your most creative employees. [Online]

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