Leadership Demands Creativity and Integrity


Creativity and integrity.

These two traits led the list when 1500 CEO’s were asked to identify the most important leadership qualities in our new economic environment. 


To all those CEO’s out there, we can honestly say, “Welcome to the club.” Creativity and integrity have been essential characteristics for project managers as long as we’ve had matrix management and virtual teams.
I read about the CEO’s in a report published by IBM, a bi-annual study that interviewed CEO’s from around the world. The CEO’s see increasing complexity associated with global integration as a major challenge now and over the coming years. Leaders need creativity and integrity to cope with the complexity.
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Sally Templeton, an executive coach, told me about the study. In Sally’s July 28th blog post she commented on ways to foster creativity. “Leaders should cultivate an environment where it is okay to try new things, to speak out, to challenge the current ways of doing things.” Read her blog for a link to the report and for other suggestions.
Any seasoned project manager will vouch for Sally’s advice. We’ve watched the energy multiply in a room where a high performance team is tackling a problem. And we’ve seen the temperature drop below freezing on projects when every new idea is met with criticism. How do project managers create that culture that fosters creativity? First and foremost, we set the example. But our personal example is not enough. We must also make a conscious effort to identify and foster the behaviors we want from all team members. One way of doing that is team ground rules, where we name the behaviors we do or don’t want. Setting team ground rules is a simple, straightforward way of creating a culture.
Creativity is really important on projects, and that is not new. That’s why you can find so much information on building a high performance team. (You can read a longer article I wrote on high performance teams, take our class, or read Chapter 10 of my book.)Fostering creativity within a company is a much larger challenge, but there again, it is a path that’s been walked before.
Integrity will be a different matter.  
Rick Valerga, author of an upcoming book, The Cure for the Common Project, writes that integrity is the foundation of project leadership. That’s tough to dispute. Name any effective project manager you know that you can’t trust.
Integrity at the project level is something we can understand. On a project team, I know everybody’s name. I make commitments. I keep commitments. People begin to trust me. If I keep enough commitments, treat others as I would be treated, and show that I value honesty and fair play over personal gain, most of the team will trust me.
I’m not saying CEO’s can’t do it, but establishing that reputation individually and for an entire corporation is a tall order.
I’m an optimist. CEO’s can lead with integrity. And if they need any examples, I’ll tell them to watch their best project managers.
There's a lot of talk about 'soft skills' for project leaders. Creativity and integrity top my list.