Research theme #2: Creative identities and leadership

This is the next in a series of blog posts outlining my seven-year plan of work as Canada Research Chair in the Faculty of Communication and Design, Ryerson University. (You may want to start with the introduction).

The second of my three themes, ‘Creative identities and leadership’, explores what leadership means for creative individuals and organisations, with an emphasis on identities and the need to develop new forms of leadership for the new creative industries. This work will be organised across two strands:

#2.1: Creative identities:

We know that individual identities play a defining role in creativity (Culpepper, 2017; Davies, 2017), affecting everything from the choice of focus and generation of ideas, to execution and communication, and engagement with others. Glăveanu & Tanggaard (2014) have argued that creative identity is forged through the interactions between the individual, multiple others, and social discourses around creativity. Indeed, artists, designers and innovators have long known that a clear sense of identity and purpose is vital to success (Madoff, 2009). This research will explore how a sense of creative agency and identity can be supported, and develop theoretical models for understanding creativity in society, building on social practice theory (Shove at al., 2012) and an understanding of the relationship between individuals and their social context initiated by Giddens and – in a different way – Foucault (Gauntlett, 2008).

The research questions are:

→ How do individual identities influence personal creativity, in terms of the confidence to get started and to share ideas?

→ How do identities relate to the ways in which people tackle creative projects and problems?

→ How can we support the flourishing of identities so that people feel well equipped to face the creative challenges of the 21st century?

#2.2: Creative leadership:

In the creative economy, authentic leadership increasingly needs to build upon creative identity: makers want their leaders to be genuine makers themselves. This displaces some of the core generic ‘business school’ management and leadership approaches and opens up opportunities for new forms of leadership. There is now a further twist in terms of gender and diversity. Companies such as Google had until recently been seen as ‘cool’ new institutions, disrupting old-school capitalism with their liberal values and lifestyles. But lately it has become clear that leading technology firms have serious problems with gender and diversity (Pao, 2017; Benner, 2017; Wong, 2017). And while emotional intelligence has been proposed as a vital asset for leaders for at least two decades (Goleman, 1998), a certain dominant style of leadership still often prevails (Henry, 2015; Howe-Walsh, 2014). There is therefore space to explore and develop fresh models of leadership for a diverse, technologically complex, fast and creative world.

The research questions are:

→ What are the most effective models of leadership for nurturing creative individuals?

→ What are the most effective models of leadership for building creative organisations?

→ How can we develop the kinds of leadership that will promote diversity in today’s media and digital businesses?

This theme connects with the FCAD Forum for Cultural Strategies, and the Global Communication Governance Lab, and with programs including MA/PhD Communication and Culture, MA Fashion, and MJ Journalism; and will make connections across to the Ted Rogers School of Management.

See also:
— CRC research overview;
— theme (1) Platforms for creativity;
— theme (3) Public understanding of creative practice.

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