Creative Leadership: Juicy Food for the Brand Soul

Recently stumbled upon a fantastic article. In The Artist, by Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. with Diane Olson, Ph.D., I found comfort in the story of Kinji Akagawa, an artist from Japan in the 1950’s. 22 year-old Kinji, journeyed to the U.S. seeking education and the American dream. He wanted to go home many times but he didn’t. He said: “It was life I was learning, you know.” Kinji went through his fear and humiliation:

“The other side of fear is courage. Courage is the basis of creativity. It is scary to face the white canvas, to uproot the clay, which you have to mold into something. When I sculpt, I know the context I am working with, but I cannot see the end. Those who are courageous enough will discover their creation and that gives more courage. Fear is there but out of it we discover courage. Going through this fear is real courage.”

As a young solo-preneur, I can relate. I often walk the line between, “I LOVE this stuff!” and “Maybe I’m completely crazy!”. At this phase of our business journey when we’re the only one answering e-mails, invoicing, tracking expenses, building brand identity and awareness, creating buzz and evolving as a “creative” all at once – it can become quite overwhelming. It’s also easy to slip out of “creative” mode and into “worker bee” mode. And let’s face it, we hate worker bee mode, that’s why we wanna quit workin’ for the man in the first place.

As I chewed on this tasty tid-bit, I was reminded yet again, of why I chose to take those first scary steps last January and why others before me must have felt so inclined to do the same…

“People are born to create. Creativity may be the core dynamic of life. Artist leaders understand that everyone has creative potential, and the leader creates the conditions for creativity to emerge throughout the enterprise: freedom, great goals, information, immediate feedback, no fear of failure, and skills equal to the challenge.

Authentic expression is the artist’s goal, and the artist leader treats everyone as if they can do great things. Importing creativity from outside the organization may provide an innovation quick fix, but the leader understands that sustainability depends on creating conditions for the inherent creativity of employees to emerge on a daily basis.

In chaotic times the best artistry and the best leadership may well come from outside the established structures: the management hierarchy, the consulting organizations, and traditional academic institutions. Pay attention and look behind positional titles, the slick presentations, the marketing machines, and the over-intellectualization of matters not that difficult.”

Did that get you like it got me? It brought me right back to the core of WHY I do what I do. For the creativity. For the passion. For how revved up my engine gets just by getting back to what wakes me up at 5 am in the first place. Back to the heart of the matter.

We can get tripped up in the high gloss shine of presentations and marketing machines, but what’s the price we pay when we get side tracked with over-intellectualized and over-sexified, shiny, too perfect displays of brand marketing? How much is too much over-analyzation of research marketing? Do we know when to say when to the buffing and shining and strategizing?

“Robert Greenleaf wrote that we have too many critics and experts with too much intellectual wheel spinning, too much retreating into research, too little preparation for and willingness to go into the guts of an organization and undertake the hard and high risk tasks of building great organizations in an imperfect world.

Observe what people live and what they do rather than what they profess and exercise your judgment in choosing your prophets. The world (and organizations) will be changed by the countless solitary and anonymous artists who get their hands dirty expanding the boundaries of the possible, not by those who spend their time pontificating.”

Right on! Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in. Let’s get down and dirty and lean and mean. Let’s strip away the unnecessary BS and get back to raw & gritty, less is more, lean and mean, core values and visions.

If you’ve lost sight of your creative vision, how might you spit shine and polish your brand back to the basics? All that glitters isn’t gold. Have you replaced the sparkle in your brand’s eye with the shimmer of excess glitter and too much flash and cash? Sometimes a beer at a dive bar and a kiss on the forehead is a lot more effective than a flashy sports car, too much cologne and VIP velvet ropes.

Are you leading creatively and artistically, yet still owning up to your roots? Or are you waving your awards and forgetting where you came from? This article was an excellent reminder, that as I evolve and my business grows, to stay true to my heart, follow my basic instincts, maintain my integrity and keep Midwestern roots even as I climb through these urban and online jungles.

How do you stay true to your creative vision? What foundation are you laying today to walk the path tomorrow?

Create your boldest visions with passion & purpose,
Kammie K.


  1. Hello Yaro — Your article today sums up many of the ideas I’ve been presenting in my blog (Be An Artist), which is for individual artists of all kinds. It’s interesting how well your small business branding ideas apply to my audience. I’ve added an entry in my blog that sums up your ideas and links to your article. Thanks!

  2. Lewis Green says

    Thoughtful post and good brain food for thought.

    Let’s get to the fork in the road where we separate paths out of the way: I don’t believe people are born to create. In fact, most people neither have the soul nor the desire to create. On the other hand, most do want to produce. I think a wide gap separates the creators afrom the producers.

    Entrepreneurs, by definition, are creators and should go to the well often to drink of its creative juices. Still, we run businesses not write novels or put paint to canvas, although some of us do both. Therefore, a fine balance between creativity and smart business strategies and tactics is good for the bottom line.

  3. Kammie, I gotta admit…

    YOU ARE ONE HECK OF A WRITER! Your writing style is so entertaining! When you couple your flair for writing, with your marketing insight, you end up with some incredible articles.

    Keep it up Kammie…

    Brad Williamson

  4. Patricia,

    Glad you enjoyed the article.


    I agree with your statements, there is a fine line between creativity and good business strategies. I’m hoping to always thing creativly-strategic!


    Awww, I think I’m blushing! Thanks for the kudos on my “flair”. Your comment sums up exactly the point I was trying to make in the article.

    There’s added value in being creativly-business like. We can walk our own unique walks and still be business savvy professionals. Why do so many people think business needs to be so SERIOUS??!!

    Yours in creative business,

  5. Your passion for creativity is what will continue to set you apart from others in your chosen path.

    I am reminded of a quote I have heard a couple times in movies lately: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

    Actually, who are you not to be?” (and so on. You can read the rest here:
    Maybe that one is already on your blog 😉

    As Kinji noted, it takes courage to find your light. For several weeks now, I have felt teetered on the edge of nail-biting fear and profound discovery. The people who really soar in this world find a way to topple to the side of discovery and creation, yet it can be one of the most terrifying leaps a person makes. I haven’t been able to let go yet, but at least I can feel it is close.

  6. Reese~

    Yes, that quote by Marianne Williamson IS on my website. I refer back to it often. Whenever I start to hear those voices that ask, “Who do YOU think YOU are?” And I concur with her, who are we NOT to be?

    It’s funny, there are zillions of books on business, success, management, leadership and how-to’s for everything under the sun. But when it comes down to it, you have to have that fire within, get quiet enough to hear your own inner guidance (intuition), so that you can make the decisions you need to succeed.

    Whether in business or life, no one else can make our decisions or choices for us. We have to dig deep, be courageous and at some point just GO FOR IT (action)!

    That’s what seperates those that thrive and those that merely survive. Thrivers take risks, are up for the challenges that come their way and are creative and flexible.

    I’m with you. Be courageous, face the fear and DO it anyway. What’s the alternative? Never knowing?

    Thanks for your always insightful comments.