The myth around leadership has been about leaders having the right answers.
It’s not completely off base. If you continually have the wrong answers, odds are you might be out of a job and not considered a good leader.
But I’ve found that asking the right questions is more important than pretending to have all or most of the answers. And asking good questions tends to lead to a more inclusive discussion with diversity of thought and opinions and expertise…and that usually leads to really good ideas and answers.
I was reminded of this when I stumbled across a book called How Creativity Rules the World by Maria Brito.
The book’s premise is that leaders need to be open to improvisation in business which is about reacting creatively to possibilities not previously envisioned.
Brito talks about how this does NOT mean that good leaders just wing it. Far from it. You still have to follow your process, your approach, the steps you take to outline a goal and work to achieve it. You still have to leverage the knowledge and expertise you have about your business and industry.
But you have to embrace improvisation when contingencies arise.
This means taking care of unexpected issues quickly and sometimes in ways you haven’t considered before. That’s improvisation.
When situations catch us off guard or when our in depth planning hasn’t prepped us for an unforeseen issue, we need to be open to improvising on the spot.
The good news is the more prepared you are, the more creative and unpredictable you can be. I’ve written and spoke about how Structure + Discipline = Creative Freedom. The greater your prep, the easier it is to improvise.
This allows you to be in charge rather than in control. You’ll actually cede control which makes you more in charge. Brito calls it the paradox of improvisation: the more prepared and competent you are, the more creative and unpredictable you can be. She describes it as giving yourself permission to innovate and change quickly.
You’ve experienced this at times throughout your life and it’s been exhilarating. Yet as leaders we often think this isn’t part of our leadership approach or that it’s more for when we or others need to be creative.
The reality is that improvisation can be a big part of leadership and communication. It’s about being focused, present and in the moment then allowing your creativity to take over.
It’s about being in charge rather than in control.