Creativity, Generosity, and Leadership

On Monday, in his blog*, Seth Godin used two phrases that caught my attention. The title was the newsletter heading, “The hubris of creativity.” The second phrase was near the end of his short post, “Generous creativity is the only way things can get better.” If you search on the second phrase, you’ll find a number of articles about the two ideas, creativity and generosity. I skimmed a couple and there are more with interesting titles, but what I want to think about with you today is the juxtaposition of the words hubris and generosity.

Hubris has a negative connotation connected as it is to the Greek idea of a ‘fatal flaw’. The Merriam-Webster online definition is “exaggerated pride or self-confidence”. Generosity on the other hand is the act of being generous or of being “open-handed, characterized by a noble or kindly spirit.” It’s intriguing to see these two words together in the same, relatively short, post.

The reality is that it takes a lot of faith in oneself to be creative, to head off down a different path from the crowd, to take an idea and make something real in the world, to sing a solo let alone create a new song. And some who watch you do this will, I think, see it as hubris, wondering, silently or not so silently, who do you think you are to do this thing you are doing?’ It always takes gumption to walk your own path, listen to your own drummer.

Which is where I find it interesting to see Godin bring in the idea of generosity. A willingness to share your own creativity is a generous act. It also takes something that might be considered as exaggerated self-confidence. But making that effort to share can help others find their creativity, their new path. Sharing your creativity invites others to step through new doorways or look in new directions. It gives people permission to explore their own ways of expressing themselves. From Godin’s perspective it’s the only way things get better. Each of us trying something new, searching out new ways to do old things, and being willing to share it with others brings out more creativity for all of us.

Now to take this one step further, remember that I think the term creative leader is redundant. Leadership is a creative act. Reread this essay substituting the word/idea of leader/leadership as you go. It still works. Leadership as a willingness to help others find a way forward to a new place, the ability to envision a different way of working together, is an act of faith in oneself, an act of hubris, if you will. Leaders have to work with others. It’s a public act which means you are always sharing with others. When it’s healthy, generative, and open, then it too is the “only way things get better.”

Where have you seen generous creativity in the world, in your organization, in your life? Where have you seen generous leadership in the world, in your organization, in your life? Where are you practicing these acts? And if you feel you aren’t, what might be holding you back? Where might you need just a bit of hubris, that exaggerated self-confidence, to allow you to make things better?

Wishing you a bit of hubris and generosity this week! I’d love to hear where it takes you as you make things better.

Take care,



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