leadership | January 22, 2013

Breaking The Mold: Conference Speaker John Maeda On Creative Leadership

As John Maeda argues in Forbes, business leaders can stand to learn a great deal from artists and designers. That explains why architect Zaha Hadid was recently given the Aenne Burda award for creative leadership. Maeda, a conference speaker at this week's Digital-Life-Design event, asked attendees whether they considered themselves to be creatives, leaders, or a combination of both. The reason he asks is because most people don't associate creative types with strong leadership skills—and Maeda believes that this misconception needs to change.

Not only do outsiders often dismiss creative people as a good fit to fill leadership roles, but he says that many creative types don't see themselves as leaders, either. However, when faced with a transition period that demands drastic changes, creative people are often the first to take on new challenges that are disruptive and shake things up. Maeda also expands on this idea in his book, Redesigning Leadership (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life). The best leaders are those who are able to approach complex problems from a fresh perspective—something that artists and designers do every day.

Maeda is currently the President of Rhode Island School of Design. He is also a world-renowned artist, graphic designer, computer scientist, and educator. In his keynotes, his lectures, and his books, he advocates for a more arts-focused future. While it is important to learn and practice core skills, an arts-enhanced education can teach us to be creative, think outside the box, and effectively collaborate with others. Leadership comes in all forms, but as Maeda says, those who are willing to learn from different disciplines and take different approaches are the most likely to succeed.