Creativity Most Important Leadership Quality for CEOs. But not in Asia!

In a recent study conducted by IBM Global Business Services, a group of over 1,500 CEOs across 60 nations identified “creativity” is the most important leadership quality for future success in business. In terms of actual percentages, 60% of those surveyed ranked “creativity” in the #1 spot. Second was “integrity” and third “global thinking”.

(Image courtesy of FASTCOMPANY)

What is concerning is that Asian leaders seem a bit out of step with the emphasis on “Creativity”. Leaders from China and Japan put “Global Thinking” as the top priority rather than Creativity.

If there is a secret of business success today, it is the willingness and ability to continually reinvent oneself. This is the essence of Innovation within business. While Asia has taken the lead in the use of technology to advance innovativeness, there is a serious lack of emphasis on creative leadership.

At the heart of the issue are the strong Confucian values which reign in much of Asian economies such as China and Singapore.  Confucian societies are tightly organised, are collectivistic, hierarchical and place an emphasis on social order and harmony. The implication for Leadership is that Confucian values do not naturally breed the kind of questioning of the status quo and creativity that innovation demands.

Asia will need to re-examine leadership values in line with business imperatives. It’s not possible to demand innovation from employees within an autocratic, command and control leadership style.