Debates about the nature of leadership for creativity have been ongoing since the 1950s. But, despite the central role leadership plays in the management of creative processes, few contributions highlight the actual practice of leadership for collaborative creative ventures. This interview with the Director of Acrobatics and Coaching at Cirque du Soleil addresses the reflexive experience of a creative leader faced with the challenges of integrating multiple expertises around complex, technological, human, and poly-sensorial creative performances. In this context, leadership for collaborative creativity appears as a constant and dynamic balancing act between people, ideas, deliverables, and the position and personality of the leader.
Boris Vekhovsky's account of his experience at Cirque du Soleil in managing creative collaborative endeavours is consistent with the literature on creative contexts: it is based a strong and clear vision and purpose, on the integration of a diversity of expertise and experience, collective learning through trials and errors, and a playful and respectful team culture (Amabile, 1998). It also resonates with advanced leadership practice in creative project management, as fed by sense-making and purpose, connecting people for knowledge sharing and learning, defining and setting up the right playground in terms of freedom as well as constraints, and coaching the individuals and the team in their search for a common flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997; Simon, 2006). Finally, addressing one of the major issues for contemporary organizations – the transformation of a diversified collective of creative people into a performing creative collective (Hargadon & Bechky, 2006) – it clarifies the expression of leadership for collaborative creativity in practice, as a constant position game, strategizing expertise, authority, and participation and accelerating the exploration and validation of new ideas by fostering individual and collective reflexivity.
Organizational Development Creating Breakout Innovation