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Organizations need ethical leaders: how to attract and nurture cultural creatives into positions of leadership and influence

Paula Kay Gardner (Scarlet Thinking, Woodford Green, Essex, UK)
Mark Holloway (Department of Psychology, University of East London, London, UK)

Development and Learning in Organizations

ISSN: 1477-7282

Article publication date: 12 April 2019

Issue publication date: 20 September 2019




This paper aims to look at the growing need for ethical leaders, suggesting that a strata of society called “cultural creatives” may answer that need. It investigates how the cultural creatives can be attracted and nurtured in positions of leadership and puts forward tangible action points and suggestions to help organizations take practical actions.


The paper is an interpretative phenomenological analysis of four cultural creatives who are in positions of leadership.


The finding with the maximum impact for organizations perhaps is that they all left positions where they felt unsupported and undeveloped, rather than push their employer for that support. Participants were predictably people-oriented, although this meant different things for each person. Their styles of leadership varied, but all shared a desire to become role models and leave a legacy. Only one worked within the third sector, and all were quite pragmatic and motivated by money, something that seems to be different from the original research on this group.

Practical implications

The paper highlights five key indicators organizations must consider to attract and nurture cultural creatives: flexibility in leadership style, levels of autonomy, acting as mentors, appropriate financial rewards, and opportunities for authentic, self-determined work.

Social implications

The cultural creatives are reportedly the third largest social strata in Western society, after the modernists and traditionalists. They are growing as a group, and this study looks at how they operate and feel about their workplace. It provides insights into what it is like to be a cultural creative.


This is the only known research on cultural creatives since the original research in the early 2000s.



Gardner, P.K. and Holloway, M. (2019), "Organizations need ethical leaders: how to attract and nurture cultural creatives into positions of leadership and influence", Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 8-11.



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