I was delighted to see Frank Kern’s article, “What Chief Executive Officers Really Want,” in the May 19th issue of Business Week. He discusses the radical ramifications of a new survey of 1,500 chief executives, conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value. The survey results demonstrate unequivocally that CEOs value one leadership competency – creativity – above all others.
Kern notes that when, “CEOs identify ‘creativity’ as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future, …creativity – not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication – something significant is afoot in the corporate world. In response to powerful external pressures and the opportunities that accompany them, CEOs are signaling a new direction. They are telling us that a world of increasing complexity will give rise to a new generation of leaders that make creativity the path forward for successful enterprises.”
I was struck by the ways in which the survey results manifest the ideas set forth by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, in her brilliant 2008 Harvard Commencement Address in which she focused on the power of imagination.
Speaking before that bastion of education, nurturer of past, present and future world leaders, Rowling extolled imagination not just for storytelling as one might expect from such a successful author but rather as a tool for transformative social change. She said, “Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation.”
Quoting the ancient Greek historian, biographer, essayist, Plutarch, Rowling notes, “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” She says, “We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: the power to imagine better.”