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Creative Leadership open Masterclass at the RCA, 2019 (photo: Adam Hollingworth)

Creative Leadership started with a single insight – that we need more creatives in leadership positions and that the world would benefit from leaders who are more creative (Gheerawo, 2011).

Our original model was pioneered by Rama Gheerawo, Director of The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, to counter widely-accepted hierarchical models of leadership, and to address the need for leadership education and training at all levels of the organisation – from the individual to the collective, from specific projects to the global company vision. The ultimate vision is to improve life for the individual, the institution, as well as society at large, creating wellbeing at all levels.

Over the last decade, the HHCD Creative Leadership programme of delivery has focused on establishing an wholistic approach to leadership development, delivery and training by focusing on both people and projects.


Most of what we are taught about leadership is wrong. And few of us were ever encouraged to be leaders while learning how to be a good designer, a good manager, or a good civil servant. Leadership has to become more diverse, empathic and enabling. Creative Leadership is about leadership from within - for those in leadership, aspiring leaders, and those who were never earmarked as leaders. A primary ambition is to Open Source leadership so it is more relevant to the 21st century.

Watch a recording of Rama Gheerawo’s RCA In Session Talk on Open Sourcing Leadership together with Christopher Patnoe - Head of Accessibility Programmes at Google. Transcript of session and Q&A available.

“Evolving our leadership mindset from outdated models of yesteryear to become visionary, empathic and creative, will be one of the most transformational achievements this century. The world is full of challenges and changes, discriminations and disparities. One action from one person can have radical effect – good or bad. Create better leadership at every level, and you create better decisions at every level.”

Rama Gheerawo Research Director

Through our experiential research and teaching, we have defined three qualities that every 21st century leader needs:

  • Creativity – a universal ability to develop solutions that positively impact ourselves and others
  • Empathy – the hallmark of a 21st century leader
  • Clarity – the missing link in aligning vision, direction, and communication.
A venn diagram showing the overlap of empathy, clarity and creativity in Creative leadership.

Around 2,000 people have attended Creative Leadership workshops to date. Over 90 per cent of individuals who have participated in our research, relate to and endorse Empathy, Clarity and Creativity as core and essential to their ability to serve both shareholders and stakeholders alike. Many use the taught methods in their daily work. Over 80 per cent ask for further training in Creative Leadership, signifying a potentially large market and need.

“Creative Leadership is a ‘must’ for leaders who want to break down barriers and be respectful of the emerging changes being brought about in leadership influenced by those coming into the workplace for the first time, who will not tolerate the top down approach of yesteryear.”

RCA Masterclass participant November 2019

Join the next RCA Creative Leadership Executive Masterclass led by HHCD Director Rama Gheerawo and Innovation Fellow Ninela Ivanova.

Rama and Ninela delivering a Creative Leadership workshop to a Japanese technology company, 2018 (photo: Ben Garfield)

Creative Leaders Circle

Sign up to the Creative Leaders Circle (CLC), a coming together of people across all ages, abilities, genders, cultures, job titles and so forth, to envisage, enact and enable new models and pathways for global leadership.


The model and vision for Creative Leadership grew from Rama Gheerawo’s experience in personally leading over 100 design projects with government, business and the third sector – from small and medium enterprises, to large multinationals – where the three values of Empathy, Clarity and Creativity began to emerge as essential to developing products, services and systems that aimed at improving people’s lives.

Creative Leadership in practice, 2019 (Adam Hollingworth)

Although specific components of the three values were prominent in various projects, our ongoing Creative Leadership practice highlights that they all need to be present throughout an entire project, to ensure meaningful outcomes with a full and vibrant effect.

An example of this in practice is Air-Control-Reimagined where the three values of CL – Empathy, Clarity and Creativity – were exercised to align physical, technological and psychological factors. These were implemented in the design of a UX technology that made complex information accessible at a glance and dynamic, and the re-design of the OCC office environment to enable better communication, teamwork and collaboration, as well as allowing opportunities for rest, personal wellbeing and delight within a high-performance setting.

Our clients

Our clients to date include:

  • Large multinationals such as Toyota, P&G, Heathrow, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and the National Bank of Kuwait
  • Civil servants and policymakers in the UK and Hong Kong governments, with 560 future leaders trained for the latter
  • SMEs, NGOs, start-ups and entrepreneurs including the London Olympic Park, and the Design Management Institute
  • Designers, marketers, innovators, business people, CEOs and members of the general public from Canada to China
  • Academic institutions including design, engineering, social science and business schools in the USA, Russia, India, Australia and SE Asia
  • Sectors as diverse as finance, logistics, technology, pharmaceutical, health, wellbeing, social and creative
  • Diverse global contexts ranging from social issues associated with ageing, health, wellbeing, migration, disaster relief, and discrimination by gender, ability and economic circumstance – to name a few.

Our work with them has shown that the core Creative Leadership attributes – Empathy, Clarity and Creativity – are recognised and accepted as baseline leadership values and attributes in our Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) world, where disruptive technologies cause marked systemic changes and seismic shifts in the global business landscape.

Future vision

The next stage of Creative Leadership research brings the people-centred frameworks, methods and approaches of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design together with neuroscience research in the areas of connectivity studies and brain plasticity. The aim is to develop a comprehensive grid of the cognitive, emotional and behavioural components that are called for in Creative Leadership.

“In Gheerawo’s Creative Leadership model, Empathy, Clarity and Creativity are sustaining values in themselves. When they are interwoven multi-dimensionally through cognition, affect and action, a holistic Learning-Retention-Application flow is made possible. This approach supersedes mechanical or strategic attempts at application. It is a leadership model that trains one in being ‘change-ready’ and strategically adaptable in one’s entire life, and not merely in the workplace.”

Dr Melanie Flory Neuroscience partner (MindRheo)

Ask a question

Get in touch for research, training programmes and partnering, or to join our Creative Leaders Circle.

Email us at
[email protected]
The three values of Creative Leadership (copyright: Rama Gheerawo)