Quotable Mumford
A collection of insightful & memorable offerings from the work of Dr. Mumford.

Home: Editorial
Key Learnings: Bridging Creativity and Systems Thinking
The Work: The Assessment and Development of High Level Talent
Book Review: Pathways to Outstanding Leadership
Book Review: Leadership 101


  Leading Creative People: Orchestrating Expertise and Relationships
Michael D. Mumford, Ginamarie M. Scott, Blaine Gaddis, Jill M. Strange

Influence by the Numbers
Web of Science Top 10
Quotable Mumford
Mumford Propositions
Selected Bibliography


Global competition, new production techniques, and rapid technological change have placed a premium on creativity and innovation. Although many variables influence creativity and innovation in organizational settings, there is reason to suspect that leaders and their behavior represent a particularly powerful influence. In the present article, we review the available literature examining leadership behaviors contributing to creativity and innovation in organizational settings. Based on the findings obtained in these studies, we argue that the leadership of creative people requires expertise. Moreover, the successful leader must employ a number of direct and indirect influence tactics—tactics consistent with the needs of creative people working in an organizational environment. The implications of these observations for theory and practice are discussed.

Summary of 39 Orchestrating Expertise and Relationships Propositions

Proposition 1: As group tasks become more complex, or more novel and ill-defined, a greater premium will be placed on leader expertise and creative problem-solving skills.

Proposition 2: The effective use of influence tactics in creative groups will depend on followers’ appraisal of leader expertise.

Proposition 3: Leaders of creative groups will be circumspect about expertise requirements delegating structuring and evaluative activities when they lack requisite expertise.

Proposition 4: Transformational and charismatic leadership may enhance creativity and innovation through motivation and intellectual stimulation.

Proposition 5: Vision and direction should be framed in terms of more concrete production missions to define goals and clarify paths to goal attainment.

Proposition 6: To prove effective in both directing the work and motivating followers, mission based visions must be used as a basis for routine decision making where participation is used as a vehicle for articulating this mission.

Proposition 7: Effective leadership of creative ventures will require substantial planning skills.

Proposition 8: Planning activities of leaders will focus more on the structure, timing, and objectives of projects than the specific conduct of the work.

Proposition 9: Leaders sense making activities will help insure coordination and joint problem solving by people with different backgrounds or different forms of expertise.

Proposition 10: As projects move from generation to development corresponding increases in diversity and complexity of implementation activities will place a greater emphasis on both organizational expertise and sense making activities on the part of the leader.

Proposition 11: The leaders of creative groups will need substantial social skills particularly the flexibility required to address the needs of different constituencies and the wisdom required to appraise the appropriateness of solutions vis-a`-vis these constituencies.

Proposition 12: The leaders of creative ventures must have persuasive skills and be able to use direct and indirect tactics to build support for projects.

Proposition 13: Leaders of creative ventures must have the social skills to be able to gauge when a project should be sold and on what basis it can be sold.

Proposition 14: Leaders of creative groups should use interactional tactics intended to encourage idea generation.

Proposition 15: The leader should actively participate in idea generation efforts.

Proposition 16: The leadership of creative people will require involving people in the task as opposed to simply increasing motivation.

Proposition 17: A variety of tactics might be used to enhance involvement, including definition of challenging goals and peer pressure, provided these tactics are consistent with the motives of creative people.

Proposition 18: Involvement can be increased by actively engaging followers with key decision makers, provided that such involvement does not result in undue negative feedback or perceptions of risk.

Proposition 19: Leaders should provide people working on creative projects with multiple forms of support (e. g, idea, work, and social support).

Proposition 20: Resources supporting work activities, tangible manifestations of support, are likely to have a particularly powerful impact during idea development and implementation while idea support and social support are likely to prove more important in initial idea generation.

Proposition 21: Leaders should allow followers freedom when working on creative efforts provided that this freedom does not result in a lack of clarity about goals and goal attainment strategies.

Proposition 22: Leaders should use output expectations, and a variety of different output expectations, as well as ongoing progress monitoring, as methods for inducing structure in creative work.

Proposition 23: Reward, and a range of both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, should be provided for meeting output expectations.

Proposition 24: People should not be punished for failure to meet output expectations provided there has been adequate progress.

Proposition 25: Project selection will represent a critical mechanism for both directing the work of creative people and managing interactions in the group.

Proposition 26: Project selection will represent an important mechanism for articulating the vision or mission of the group.

Proposition 27: Leaders of creative ventures should build leadership teams intended to represent diverse perspectives.

Proposition 28: Leaders should assign people to project teams to ensure appropriate levels of diversity.

Proposition 29: Requisite levels of diversity will increase as tasks become more novel and illdefined, but decrease as more concrete development and fielding issues come to fore.

Proposition 30: Leaders must manage the nature and amount of contact as a function of project needs and the point in the development cycle.

Proposition 31: Leaders should arrange or encourage contacts to insure that a range of relevant information is considered, including a range of technical information.

Proposition 32: Leaders should seek to buffer creative groups, or creative individuals, from off-task organizational demands.

Proposition 33: Leaders of creative groups should develop open, flexible structures that stress the importance of relevant technical expertise.

Proposition 34: Structure and formalization should be increased as projects move from generation to subsequent development and fielding.

Proposition 35: Leaders should use crises and achievements, and stories about these crises and achievements, as a vehicle for defining a climate and culture likely to encourage creativity and innovation.

Proposition 36: Leaders should build normative structures and apply decision rules consistent with the kind of climate known to encourage creativity and innovation.

Proposition 37: Leaders of creative groups must acquire an understanding of organizational strategy and use this knowledge as a basis for structuring creative ventures.

Proposition 38: Leaders of creative groups should screen and sell projects based on their implications for broader organizational strategy.

Proposition 39: Leaders of creative groups should actively monitor emerging technologies that might influence business strategy now or in the more distant future.


Mumford, M. D., Scott, G. M., Gaddis, B., & Strange, J. M. (2002). Leading creative people: Orchestrating expertise and relationships. [Review]. Leadership Quarterly, 13(6), 705-750.