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

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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

The Assessment and Development of Highlevel Talent

  Skills that Leaders Must Possess to Perform Well in Dyanamic Organizational Settings

Creative Thinking Skills
Leadership Skills
Workplace Structure
Life History Path


The findings of Redmond and Mumford (1993) suggest a number of ways that leaders can enhance subordinate creativity. When the objective is originality, leaders  should turn to individuals who have significant knowledge  about the problems at hand, or alternatively, provide the necessary educational and development experiences. Leaders should not force subordinates to structure and apply information in a prescribed manner, or the same as other organizational members, or other experts do. Different perspectives should be encouraged and sought. Leaders should take actions intended to build subordinate feelings of self-efficacy. This can be achieved with positive and realistic feedback, providing adequate resources and physical support, clarifying task assignments, providing development opportunities, and assigning subordinates to appropriate tasks. Organizational pressures can result in demands for immediate solutions. Leaders should recognize that there are benefits in providing the time to think. Leaders should actively encourage and support subordinate problem construction. This will provide a foundation for original, high-quality solutions, and by allowing subordinates to set project goals it may intrinsic motivation may increase.

Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, Jacobs, and Fleishman (2000) asks the fundamental question, “what must leaders do to facilitate group maintenance and task accomplishment?” (p. 13). The answers to this question results in a theory of leadership that suggests that effective leadership behavior depends on the leader’s abilities to solve the complex social problems faced by organizations. Mumford, et al. (2000) outlines a framework based on the idea that organizational leadership is a “form of skilled performance” (p.26). This takes a cognitive perspective that argues that effective leadership requires the capability to formulate and implement solutions to complex social problems. The skills required include creative problem solving, identifying problems, understanding the problem, and generating potential solutions; the social judgment skills needed to refine potential solutions and to establish implementation paths; and social skills to motivate and direct others.

Mumford, Scott, Gaddis, and Strange (2002) reviews literature on leadership behaviors contributing to creativity and innovation in organizational settings and concludes that “our traditional conceptions of the requirements for leading creative people do not fit the data” (p. 738).  It goes on to indicate the leadership of creative efforts calls for an integrative style where the leader orchestrates expertise, people, and relationships in such a way as to bring new ideas into being. The integrative style is described to have three crucial elements:
  1. Idea generation. Research on creative leadership emphasizes the importance of the leader in facilitating others’ idea generation.
  2. Idea structuring. Refers to the guidance of the technical and organizational merits of the work, setting output expectations, and identifying and integrating projects.
  3. Idea promotion. Involves gathering support from the organization for the creativity as well as the implementation of a specific ideas or projects.

Byrne, Barrett, Mumford, and Vessey (2008) summarizes the literature on the leadership of creative efforts, describes the nature of creative work and creative people, and identifies the behaviors often demonstrated by leaders of creative efforts. Two models are presents: (1) explores core leader functions tailored for creativity and innovation, (2) explains how leaders go about planning during the innovation process.

These models include implications for leader development, suggesting that it could involve training in environmental scanning, mission definition, forecasting skills, climate intervention, and building on Mumford, et al. (2000), creative-problem solving.

“The available evidence, however, indicates that creative problem-solving skills may indeed represent an important influence on leader performance.”

(Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, Jacobs, & Fleishman, 2000, pp 17-18)