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Updated: May 7, 2022

I rushed through the side door to greet my youngest son after his school day. Then just an itty bitty grade schooler, most of his learning took place through play. He led me over to the kitchen table to see his project: a collection of twigs, acorns, leaves, and stems arranged like a bicycle and glued to royal blue construction paper.

If I had to guess, I’d say that I’ve tossed about 99% of the projects and papers my kids bring home from school. I kept this one. Not so much because I thought it was “good,” (it totally was), but because it reminded me of an essential, little-used, rarely celebrated element of leadership: imagination.

In order for my kiddo to make that sculpture, he had to (1) observe his surroundings, (2) make choices about what he would gather, (3) consider alternative arrangements and relationships between the items he found, (4) imagine an object that he didn’t actually see – a bike, and (5) create something that hadn’t existed before.

Then, he shared his creation with others: a brave act in my book. “This is what I made.”

Think of a challenge you are facing now. A personnel problem? A budget deficit? A conflict with a long-time member of your team? Or maybe you are figuring out how to care for an ailing parent. How can your imagination serve you in your solving it?

Observe what is going on without judgement. Take stock. What do you have to work with?

Decide what resources you will bring to the challenge.

Consider other ways of looking at it. What might you make with the pieces you have?

Imagine what better looks like. Picture it. Maybe even feel what it’ll feel like.

Create it. Take the next right step to start putting the pieces together.

Leadership is not all nuts and bolts. Some of it is total make-believe: messy and imaginative creative work. There are no supposed tos here. My son’s teacher didn’t prescribe their materials or the end product, and no one is going to do that for you either. So you might as well see it as an opportunity to create something wonderful, something beautiful, something that only you could make.

That’s what creativity is. No actual glue required.

Happy creating, Amanda


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