Insights and best practices for business leaders to enhance corporate culture, promote leadership and maximize results.

Deceptively simple, bicycles remain the most efficient form of transportation on the planet. Lightweight and comprised of relatively simple parts, they are designed to convert one form of energy—let’s say, whatever you ate for breakfast—into another form of energy—kinetic energy. Disassembled, a bicycle is just a frame and a pile of minuscule hardware, including spokes, gears, and chains. Even assembled, without a rider, a bicycle is just another inert object. Assembled and given a rider, however, the bicycle is an efficient and charming machine that can be adopted for pleasure, sport, or work. In every respect, a bicycle is the sum of its parts.

Of course, for every great thing that is the sum of its parts, there needs to be someone who understands how all the parts fit together and how they can be taken apart, modified, and reassembled to build an even better machine over time. Whether or not this person is known matters much less than whether or not this person knows what they are doing and most importantly, understands the “big picture.” In today’s corporate world, great leaders are increasingly those people who are best able to fill this seemingly modest role.

Leadership in a Creative Economy

While leaders continue to inspire change, in the creative economy, where workers at all levels of an organization increasingly expect to be consulted and engaged at their fullest potential, leadership is changing too. Great leadership is just as likely to reside in someone whose strength lies in his or her ability to recognize all the moving parts and appreciate how they interact as it is in someone whose strength lies simply in espousing ideas and grand visions. After all, as a myriad of recent studies have revealed, in the creative economy, above all else, workers value collaboration, consultation, respect, and transparency.

As Richard Florida and James Goodnight reflected in a co-­authored 2005 article published in the Harvard Business Review, “Creative employees pioneer new technologies, birth new industries, and power economic growth…If you want your company to succeed, these are the people you entrust it to. That much is certain.” But as Florida and Goodnight also recognized, “What’s less certain is how to manage for maximum creativity.” Over a decade later, there is little question that we’ve started to make at least some progress on this front.

A New Generation of Leaders

Over the past decade, new managerial models have emerged and so has a new class of leaders. This is a generation of executives who aren’t afraid to come out of the corner office and into the bullpen. These are executives who appreciate that leaders can be people with partners, families, hobbies, and hardships. These are executives who value talking directly to people at all levels of their organization and don’t assume communication necessarily is best when it travels up a hierarchical pipeline from the trenches to the top. In sum, today’s most effective leaders recognize just how perilous a single broken brake cable, rusting link in a chain, or bent spoke can be when you’re speeding downhill on an open stretch of road.

[i] Richard Florida and James Goodnight, “Managing for Creativity,” Harvard Business Review (July­August 2005),­for­creativity