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Option Five Podcast
Episode 7

07: Todd Henry | Creative Leadership in Life & Work

In this week's episode, George invites Todd Henry, author of Herding Tigers, The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder than Words to talk about how to nurture creative leadership in life and work.

Summary

In this week's episode, George invites Todd Henry, author of Herding Tigers, The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder than Words to talk about how to nurture creative leadership in life and work. Here's a synopsis of what was covered:

  • Todd Henry is the creator and host of the podcast ‘The Accidental Creative’. He’s taught leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. Todd speaks and consults across different industries on creativity & leadership, as well as maintaining passion for your work.
  • His newest book, Herding Tigers, is about what creative people need from their leaders.
  • As far as his books go, he went from talking straight to creatives about how to be creative on demand and transitioned into creative leadership
  • His books were all in response to what he was seeing in the marketplace; Creativity is not a machine or spigot, and people shouldn’t treat it as such. People hit a wall because they don’t have healthy infrastructure.
  • The people getting creativity right had practices in their life that kept them viable
  • Some people are organized, but they’re not working on the right stuff (‘Die Empty’ was a response to that)
  • You also need a way to put your creativity into the world that will resonate, so people will be attracted to your work
  • People were telling Todd that they have to deal with terrible managers, and ‘Herding Tigers’ was a response to that. It’s the capstone for creative leadership to help them understand the psychology of creating on-demand and what their employees need.
  • Leading creative process requires a different skill set than doing creative work. You have to LEAD the work rather than DOING it.


  • The Stability and Challenge Matrix: Creative people need clarity of process and expectations (need to know that the ground won’t be shifting beneath them). As much as we are able, we (leaders) need to provide stability and ground rules/cultural baseline that they can trust.
  • Creatives need principles to abide by, because creative work is inherently uncertain. It’s important to put boundaries around the creative process--mature creative people DON’T want complete freedom
  • Creatives want to be challenged and try new things. As a leader, we need to speak courage into people and push them to new places.
  • The problem is that stability and challenge are at odds with each other. It’s the job of the leader to understand the right mix for each individual on your team.


  • What it takes to do creative work well & consistently is an enigma/black box to a lot of organizations and clients.
  • Mature creative professionals understand that a healthy creative process and consistent product process necessitates structure, practices, & doing the little things no one else does.


  • Growth is fundamental. It’s about routine and recognizing rhythms. Creatives need to create a ritual around stimulus and the type of inspiration they seek.
  • Creativity is connecting the dots (connecting things, trying new things)--you need ideas to play with in order to have these dots to connect.
  • An essential practice for Creatives is Pruning. This might be pruning things from your life that are good things, but aren’t necessarily consistent with where you want to be. This gives you more whitespace to dedicate toward ambitions that are consistent with your goals, and needs to be done routinely.
  • Rhythm can affect your priorities (work life balance). You have to be all in on work or all in on family.
  • Don’t shelter your kids from the fact that ‘mom and dad work hard’. Though they’re busy, ‘dad is HERE when he’s here’.
  • Aspire to be present when you’re there and give 100%.


  • If you have to solve problems every day, you are ‘Creative’. We associate creativity with art, but the two are different (you’re prone to all the same pressures and dynamics we’ve been talking about).


  • Managing Cross-Discipline Teams: There are creative disciplines and domains of expertise. Just because you have permission to speak doesn’t mean you have permission to make decisions.
  • We all bring different and useful perspectives.
  • The challenge with these cross-discipline teams is understanding who is good at what and when their skills are needed PLUS what motivates whom and when (ie: some are motivated to learn and this is only really useful at some points in the process, others are wired to be key contributors).
  • Managers need to understand how to speak to these different types of motivations and how to help them align around the purpose
  • There’s a mix of skills and aptitudes, and leaders have to find out how to wrangle them.


  • Three things that make a good Creative leader:
  1. Focus is a big issue with leadership. You have to determine what your team should and shouldn’t be doing. Part of you job is to define the work for your team.
  2. Managing conflict, which is critical to creative teams. You want there to be fighting around the right ideas.
  3. Recognize that your team needs you more than anything as a leader to protect their time and attention. Don’t be a pawn for the organization, and don’t fold every time. You lose their trust when you don’t deliver.

Connect with Todd Henry:
Twitter: @toddhenry
Instagram: @toddhenry
https://www.linkedin.com/in/toddhenry1

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Tweet at us: @cremalab

Option 5 is brought to you by Crema

Crema is a digital product agency that works with partners from top innovative brands to funded startups. Our team of creative thinkers and doers simplify the complex to discover the right solutions faster.

Find Crema on the web at https://www.crema.us

Find us on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/Cremalab

Intro and outro music by Joel Schuman
http://www.joelschuman.com/


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