Leaders are Creative

This month Millie VandenBroek  (Waterbury ’13) shares her insights about the role creativity has played in her approach to leadership and growth.

LDR:  Millie, you say that creativity has played a big role in your professional trajectory. Please explain.

MVB: Creativity feels a lot like giving myself permission to take risks. I have served in the front of organizations – for example, as executive director of Elm City Dance Collective - but I also like being a beginner, and giving myself permission to fail. I was a corporate lawyer at 24 when I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way, and I discovered that I need to dance, a lot. That discovery led to over a decade of dancing and performing professionally alongside my other roles -- and, incidentally, vastly improved my confidence, my public speaking abilities, and my improvisational skills -- all qualities that help in traditional leadership contexts. 

All of us are creative. As we become adults, many of us grow less connected with our creative instincts, but this connection is always available to us if we practice opening ourselves up to it. I love supporting others in getting in touch with their creative sides.     

LDR: Describe what it's like when you are really in a good creative “flow”?

MVB: Creativity is play, and failure has to be okay. If I am in a rigid place where I need to succeed by external measures, it is hard to create something special or true. I get my best ideas when it is okay to be myself, to try new things, and to fail. 

LDR: You made significant professional decisions in the last few years. Would you describe your approach to decisions?

MVB: It is important to me to regularly take stock of what direction I am going in and to keep looking at my big picture goals. When I think I can improve the alignment of my current role with my big picture vision, I test my instincts with two separate techniques - getting quiet and talking a lot! For the former, I meditate regularly. This helps me to stay in touch with the quiet voice of inner guidance. For the latter, I rely on my husband, mother, and sister to talk out my ideas about my potential career changes. They bounce ideas around with me and help me test out my instincts. Having a sounding board (or three) has been invaluable. They are all leaders within their professions, and although I can present some "out-there" ideas to them for consideration, they take me seriously and help keep me grounded in a family tradition of hard work, professionalism and service. Today, creativity at this stage in my career means taking the risk of going back to school, and exploring how to become most fully alive in my day-to-day practices and professional commitments.

LDR: Anything more you want us to know?

MVB: Thank you for the opportunity to reflect and share. I loved my LDR experience and am grateful for the chance to stay connected to the LDR community.  

NOTE: Millie teaches creativity classes and yoga, and is pursuing a long-held dream of becoming a therapist. She is pursuing certification in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at UMass Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society, and is taking classes at SCSU towards a Masters in Social Work.