Leading Creative Teams

Last Sunday afternoon I savored a highly entertaining display of creativity – the third annual Handcar Regatta in Santa Rosa, CA. Over twenty mechanical “contraptions” took turns racing 700 feet on unused railroad tracks. The teamwork, ingenuity, and dedicated effort demonstrated by the teams illustrated principles that are, of course, relevant to organizations and their leaders. One of the most striking things I noticed was that while most of the teams had definite leaders, their identity was not obvious, as the leaders were low key and subtle in their behavior. Even amid the noise and chaos of a loosely structured event with thousands of spectators, the crews were focused and amicable at the starting line.

Food for Thought ~

Especially for collaborative, creative projects that require a strong sense of esprit de corps, highly authoritative leadership is neither necessary nor particularly effective. The top handcar teams, in addition to having the best designed mechanical devices, also seemed to have the most visible positive team morale. Their leaders gave direction and made decisions as needed, but the overall effect was an egalitarian, highly participatory effort that was shared and enjoyed by all.

Question of the day ~

What aspects of your company might benefit from a highly creative effort that calls for the light touch of deft leadership skills?