How to support a highly imaginative leader

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Written by Mark Powell and Gillian Hyde on 14 May 2021 in Features

A leader with extreme visionary ideas can lose the focus of the rest of their team. Mark Powell and Gillian Hyde provide strategies to mitigate negative repercussions. 


Here’s the scenario. You have a leader on your team who is highly imaginative, with ideas that often slip into the extreme end of the visionary scale during times of increased pressure. These ideas regularly cause confusion and derail the focus of the rest of the team.

How can you best support these highly imaginative leaders, mitigating any negative impact on the workplace?   

A recent YPO report, ‘Leading in the Post-COVID-19 World’, highlights innovation skills as one of the key traits for the CEO of the future to possess.

With budget cuts, relentless organisational change and further pressures on business leaders rife in today’s climate, having the ability to be more creative with less, and the vision to leverage opportunities brought by change, is considered beneficial in steering workforces through this turbulent landscape. 

Decision-makers might get so caught up with their own imagination, rather than focusing on the realities of a situation, that productivity is then impacted. 

What can happen if these strengths are overplayed?

Today’s leaders are more likely to be ‘ideas people’ compared to similar data collected over a decade ago.They are more likely to generate multiple, novel ideas and business solutions, which all sounds very positive, but if these tendencies are overplayed, more eccentric ideas may arise.

With the potential for these ‘out of the box’ ideas to lack focus or be impractical, leaders high in this trait might make surprising decisions which cause confusion with colleagues. Decision-makers might get so caught up with their own imagination, rather than focusing on the realities of a situation, that productivity is then impacted. 

What training strategies can L&D teams implement to best manage this shift in personality type? 

If the leader is high on creativity, you can cultivate the idea of controlled innovation and support the employee with the structure needed to drive the right outcome. 

  1. Provide feedback to outline that their stimulating and visionary ideas might need greater explanation for others to fully understand them, indeed a simple stakeholder mapping exercise can help identify who needs to be involved and communicated with as the idea is explored.  
  2. Suggest they seek opinion from a trusted peer, who may be less creative but stronger at implementation, to evaluate and approve the idea at concept stage.
  3. Encourage the leader to take a step back and ensure they are starting with the problem first, that the problem is worth solving and that the proposed solution outweighs the existing ones.  
  4. Support leaders high in creativity to maintain discipline around the creation of a business case for their ideas with end user involvement progressed to test the concept as a Minimum Viable Product.  

Understanding the personality derailers of your senior leaders provides a firm basis for identification of potential issues, and developmental strategies can be implemented to avoid negative repercussions on employee wellbeing and productivity.

Ensuring these leaders check in with others to regulate ideas and to discuss their feasibility, will help to maintain a cohesive working environment. 


About the author

Mark Powell is a Partner, Leadership and Talent Consultancy, at GatenbySanderson, and Gillian Hyde is Chief Psychologist and Managing Director at Psychological Consultancy Ltd.




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