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12 definitive traits of a leader: Part 10-Imaginative

By Jeff Custer | Tuesday, July 5, 2022

We normally think of imaginative people as musicians, artists, painters, writers, and even storytellers. What may not immediately come to your mind is thinking of leaders as imaginative. Regardless of which camp you fall into, imaginative people come up with original ideas. They’re inventive. And they couple those skills with a burning desire to accomplish great things.

But why should you as a leader care if you’re imaginative or not? To me, it seems to boil down to this: there’s a constant stream of new challenges and issues leaders not only must face—but resolve. And the solutions you used in the past may not work to solve these new problems. You may need to develop new solutions. Without imagination that’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to craft those new solutions.

So how can you become more imaginative?

  1. Change your mindset. Force yourself into a creative mindset. When you’re confronted with a challenge, make a point of thinking of a new way to solve it. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “How can I…?” Practice taking ideas from one place and applying them to others. Here’s a simple example: I love gardening. Around one garden plot I wanted to install a lightweight fence to keep unwanted animals out. In addition, I wanted a convenient way to keep the fence up but be easy to take down to pull weeds or pick vegetables. I ended up using binder clips to fasten the fencing to stakes. You know, the kind used to clip large paper reports that you buy in the office supply section. They work perfectly and are inexpensive. That’s imagination!

  2. Keep good company. As we mentioned earlier in this blog series, who you spend time with has a great impact on you. If you surround yourself with imaginative people, you’re more likely to be imaginative yourself. Leverage your connections by brainstorming solutions to problems. Better yet, mentally turn those problems into opportunities to better yourself and your organization.

  3. Become a storyteller. A great storyteller can paint a verbal picture that carries their audience to a far-off place while never moving an inch. The storyteller translates their imagination into words that connects with the listeners. Every time you tell a story, think about how you’re exercising your imagination to convey your message.

  4. Be curious. Have you lost your childlike curiosity? Did you know that children ask around 125 questions a day? While adults average a measly six. Make it a point to ask more questions. Challenge yourself to ask, “How does that work?” Figure out the answer. Ask another question. Read more. It opens up so many new avenues of thought where you’ll be exposed to different perspectives and ways to accomplish tasks.

Leaders with great imaginations will come up with breakthrough solutions. They’ll solve problems in ways that have never been done before. They’ll leave others wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

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Are you struggling to improve your effectiveness as a leader? Email me at for a free consultation.

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Jeff Custer is a long-time leader at both private and Fortune 500 companies where he has developed and led both high performance individuals and teams. He is passionate about developing leaders and building high impact teams. Jeff resides in the United States.

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