Lessons on Leadership Development from a Master

Business schools are beefing up programs to meet corporate demand for leadership skills, especially creativity. However, whether creativity can be taught in a classroom is up for debate.

Brown, Red & Pink Butterfly

© David Wood | Dreamstime.com

Recently, an article in Forbes caught my eye because the author, August Turak, recalled the important contribution of his mentor, Louis R. Mobley, to leadership development. Mobley established the IBM Executive School in 1956. Its purpose was to help executives think creatively, and as you’ll read, Mobley approached the process in an out-of-the-box way.

At IBM, Mobley upended the linear classroom method of learning. His unorthodox approach was built on asking “radically different” questions in a non-linear way. This, he believed, was the key to unlocking creativity.

Insights from the teacher
Here are the principles that Mobley used to ground his leadership program:

  • Becoming creative is an unlearning process. This means questioning assumptions.
  • You become a creative person through experience. Reading a manual won’t accomplish this. Mobley’s students were transformed through a type of boot camp, challenging them to go beyond the obvious answer. “Shock and awe was used to open up his students to alternative modes of thinking,” writes Turak.
  • Spending time with creative people is essential to developing creativity.
  • Creativity is highly correlated with self-knowledge and understanding your biases.
  • It’s okay to be wrong. Your mistakes can lead you to improved results.

 A Mobley-style DIY
Are you interested in fostering your own growth as a creative leader? Turak offers suggestions modeled on elements of the IBM Executive School. Notably, his recommendations require a willingness to minimize your ego, welcome frustration and move into roles that take you out of your comfort zone. Your ability to stick with things when the going gets tough can lead to breakthroughs. “Transformation, like giving birth,” writes Turak, “is always a painful process.”

Have you taken a job that took you out of your comfort zone? How did you handle the need to build new skills?

About creativeconsiderations

Christine Sullivan is a communications strategist with expertise in communications planning, writing and content development, and executive communications. She can be reached at mycreativeconsiderations@gmail.com.
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