Get started with co-creative leadership

Many leaders struggle with working in collaboration with their teams. This path will take your leadership to the next level.

Steffan Surdek
May 2, 2022
Leader sitting down and thinking facing a window about his co-creative leadership

Many leaders struggle to fully engage and involve their teams. What I found over the course of many years of coaching is that leaders facing these challenges experience a lot of frustration.

More and more in the workplace, they face situations where they feel off balance and no longer know what to do. For certain leaders, this may cause conflicts. Especially if hierarchy is important for you, or if you believe you need to have the perfect answers to everything.

In this article, we will dive into co-creative leadership, which is one of the core principles we teach our clients everyday. We will give you a high-level overview of this principle and of the 5 key skills co-creative leaders apply with their teams.

What is Co-creative leadership?

Co-creative leadership is a mindset to adopt. It is about harnessing the brainpower and knowledge of the people around you in order to create highly motivated and engaged teams.

Many senior leaders in organizations are from a different generation than the millennials they are leading and do not understand what to do to meet this younger generation's needs. At times, in conversations with these leaders, I am reminded of the movie "A league of their own" where an exasperated baseball manager tells his team "but there's no crying in baseball!” The parallel for the professional world would be: "there are no emotions at work".

Co-creative leadership is about bringing forward a leadership style that allows all perspectives to be heard. It is not a new way of acting and behaving, but a new way of being.

How a co-creative leader acts

Co-creative leaders are intentional in their conversations as well as their actions. They understand that learning to collaborate as a group often takes a bit of time, and they work through this learning curve with their employees.

Co-creative leaders work toward finding solutions with their teams while also being an active voice in the conversation. It does not matter if they speak first or speak last, as they are a voice among many. They help their team converge toward the best solution, even if it is not their own idea.

Co-creative leaders foster an environment where people can learn by doing and being in action. They understand it is better to start doing something smaller and learn from it instead of talking about doing something for months without starting anything at all!

Here are the five key skills of a co-creative leader that will help you address these challenges in different ways.

The 5 key skills of a co-creative leader

Skill #1: How to be a voice among many in the conversation

Co-creative leaders help their teams focus on the problem and can be an active participant in building the solution with them. When they speak, the people around them feel free to challenge or reject their ideas. Co-creative leaders also listen and recognize good ideas.

Skill #2: How to unleash the leaders around you

Co-creative leaders know when to lead and when to follow others. They have the ability to recognize disengaged people with untapped leadership potential and find ways to put them in situations that help them grow into the leaders they can be.

Skill #3: How to build the capacity of your team

Co-creative leaders understand that they need to help team members build new skills in order to build a high-performing team or organization. They develop their people and create sustainable change in their organizations.

Skill #4: How to dance with the system around you

Co-creative leaders do not manage people; they manage the system that surrounds them. They understand that a team (as well as an organization) is a complex adaptive system that responds and reacts to what is happening around it.

Skill #5: How to foster a culture of learning by doing

Co-creative leaders know that the best way to learn is by doing small experiments and learning from them instead of talking about something for days, weeks or even months without trying out any new skills.

How you can take the plunge

The path to becoming a co-creative leader will ask you to step way out of your comfort zone. It may be a bit overwhelming at first. You may not be comfortable with being that open and vulnerable even with yourself.

You also may feel you need some outside help to support you. This is normal and it is part of the growth process. This is where it may be helpful to find a coach to guide you.

When you take time to develop your self-awareness, you start getting a better understanding of yourself. Gradually, by noticing these different parts of yourself and putting new practices in place, you start integrating these practices into your way of being. It takes time and you need a clear intention and the willingness to do this.

Investing in your personal development will encourage your team members to do so as well. When they see you doing it, they may ask you how they, too, can do some of the personal work you are doing.


The idea behind being a co-creative leader is to be a leader that is more comfortable facing challenges with your team.

Co-creative leadership is not just a set of things to do. It is a mindset. It is about changing your leadership game to engage employees in a way that allows them to step up and take ownership of their work.

Becoming a co-creative leader also means becoming a more conscious and intentional leader who can be authentic and vulnerable with their teams.

What does your leadership create within your team? How can you start stepping into being a leader who transforms the world around you?