Being a leader is difficult. That’s why most of us end up taking direction from others in our professional lives. But the ranks of the self-employed are swelling, hinting that more people are getting comfortable taking the reins in their own hands. And in fact, becoming a leader (even if it’s just of yourself) is something anyone who’s committed to the task can master. There’s no inborn quality that leaders possess. They’re ordinary people who decide at one point or another to do extraordinary things.
That doesn’t just take courage, it demands creativity–the kind you need to actively nurture and practice. I’m an artist, so I like to think about leadership as an art form. And I’ve found that in order to become a leader, you need to develop similar qualities to an artist–to tap into your creative intelligence in order to keep ahead of the crowd, stay nimble, and inspire those around you to push themselves, too.
Here are five traits the most creative driven leaders–and therefore the best leaders, generally speaking–all possess.
Change is a constant. In the natural world, in politics, in business, the only thing that stays the same is the fact that nothing stays the same. Some people wait until they’re propelled into leadership positions by forces around them. But the best leaders–from Joan of Arc to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Steve Jobs–first provoke themselves into action, then the people around them. They’re constantly imagining new possibilities. They instigate change that they envision even when others don’t.
Yet perhaps the only major difference between these great leaders and the average person is that they’re willing to do something rather than let circumstances dictate life for them. That typically means rattling cages and shaking up long-standing beliefs and institutions–which is never easy or universally well-received. But that’s precisely what makes them great. To rise to your true leadership potential, chances are you’ll need to rattle a few cages as well, starting with your own.
Don’t buy into the notion that you can take a giant leap if you spend enough time carefully mapping it out. By the time you get done planning, others will have lapped you twice and already taken that leap you spent months mulling over. Opt instead to “just go” and let the sparks fly. You will make mistakes. But in the process, you’ll learn quickly and keep moving–refining your skills and igniting new levels of creativity you didn’t know you had.