This column is the second in a series of lessons on creating with intentionality!
Nido Qubein is president of High Point University in North Carolina. He does not have an earned doctorate. He had no background in higher-education administration. He is a businessman and motivational speaker.
Yet, he has taken a little Southern school to the top of the regional college lists in US News and World Report. He’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars, doubled enrollment, tripled endowment, and completely rebuilt the campus.
Qubein came to the United States from Lebanon at age 15 with $3.00 in his pocket and no command of English. He exudes creativity and new ideas with every breath.
Another creative, transformational personality is Oprah Winfrey. Chances are that you know her story of poverty and abuse, rising above it to create literally her OWN television network. Almost everything she touches turns to gold.
At the height of her afternoon talk show, she could spike a book’s sales by 50,000 by making it her book club selection. She is about lifting women, helping little girls in Africa, and making a difference. She is doing it by constantly creating and re-creating herself.
In an affirmation of my belief that creativity stems from meeting a real need, Bill Gates created the largest personal fortune in the world by creating the software that runs the majority of the world’s computers.
In recent years, he’s removed himself from active daily management of Microsoft and is devoting his attention to the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, which they created to address health and education issues around the globe. They have also created awareness in the minds of many of the nation’s wealthiest individuals that they have an opportunity and an obligation to put their money to work philanthropically.
What is a common denominator among these creative people? Their responses to specific needs have enabled them to influence a tremendous number of others. Their solutions solve problems. Their creativity is not an effervescent idea drawn from thin air only to expand and burst like a bubble.
One of the most creative people I’ve observed is Linda Morgan, a long-term staff member. She never stops –– serving children and families through Baptist Children’s Homes is her life.
She creates opportunities for fun. She dresses up for holidays, cultivates relationships, and digs potatoes every year when her group visits a local farmer who donates them to us. She is always thinking of ways to improve service and to generate excitement. She is a known and trusted individual and team member.
People will allow you to be creative and follow your creative ideas if they trust you.
In recent days, several people have told me they keep their financial commitment to BCH going because, they said, “We trust you.” My most valuable currency is the trust of our constituencies.
A team likes a creative leader. A team appreciates someone who is creative and dynamic and puts them on the frontier where firsts can be found.
My priority is staff, because through them I multiply myself. If I can make life better for staff, then they can make life better for children.
I want to see that they have a good salary, good benefits, access to leadership, and a good working environment. I want them to feel good about their work, to be happy and secure so they can give the children all they’ve got.
To do that, I’ve got to stay creative. Here are some of the ways I manage that, even after a third of a century in the same role.
• Find a quiet place. Leaders are inundated with calls, emails, alerts, visitors, snail mail, meetings, and deadlines. We have more information being thrown at us than we can sort, analyze and absorb. Yet, when was the last time a creative idea surfaced in your brain while you were neck deep in your inbox? Give yourself time and space to create.
• Be willing to throw away your first brilliant idea. While it was good enough to post on Facebook when it popped into your mind, after you mull it over for a while you realize it wasn’t that good and it’s got to go.
• Pay attention. At a recent leadership event, I worked the room before the program started. Then I listened closely to what went on before it was my time to speak. I was able to interject lots of spontaneous comments from things I’d learned earlier in the morning.
Spontaneity is enabled by your comfort with the audience and confidence in yourself. Confidence allows you to be creative, which in turn should lead to an increase in comfort and more confidence.