Skip to main content

Introducing the ‘Rainbow Model of Creative Leadership’

11 Dec 2019 | Doug Parkin Doug Parkin, Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management at Advance HE, unveils his new resource to help focus the mind on creative leadership.

Creative leadership involves a wide range of skills and approaches, not just passion and inspiration, and many of these can be consciously refined and developed. To understand and consider these, we have developed the Rainbow Model. This will be the centrepiece of our new Senior Academic Leadership Programme (SALP) which is focussed on creative leadership.

Leadership always takes place in a context, and there can be few environments more suited to creative, transformational leadership than higher education. SALP has been specifically designed for senior leaders with a strong interest in developing an environment in which engagement is high, commitment is shared, and performance is strong. Whether taking forward a research agenda, growing enterprise, or looking to transform learning and teaching, this programme will put creativity at the heart of what it means to lead collaboratively. 


The Rainbow Model combines into one the three domains of human invention:

  • creativity
  • innovation
  • enterprise

Radiating out from creativity itself at the base of the model – a combination of place, passion and purpose – the model builds in nine steps through innovation and into enterprise. Enterprise here could mean the delivery of a specific new application of creative ideas, but it could equally be an outcome focussed on doing something familiar in an interesting and different way or taking a new strategic path.

Transforming creative ideas into actions begins with getting the environment right, and this is the foundation of the model. Whether thinking about the skill set needed for graduates of the future or really examining how to get research into policy and practice, modern academic leadership needs to foster and enable creativity at every level.

The academic endeavour is at its core a creative one. Even very technical and rigorously precise research has a creative basis. From the most complex curriculum review challenge to the most wicked interdisciplinary research question, creativity unlocks human potential at every stage. It ignites ideas, inspires, and develops focus, commitment and energy. And leadership can and should complement this by being creative and using creativity as the basis for communication and engagement.  

Alongside the Rainbow Model we are developing a tailored self-assessment diagnostic that will be unique to SALP and Advance HE.  The CIE (creativity, innovation and enterprise) Review will be a reflective tool for identifying and developing strengths linked to the three core domains.

In the complex and challenging environment of higher education leadership can so easily become impoverished – lost for time, lost for ideas, lost for direction and lost for commitment. In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, we can end up feeling overwhelmed, overstretched, disconnected, fatigued and with nothing left to give. Fresh approaches to collaborative engagement through creativity and shared learning, bridging communities, holds the answer. 

The Senior Academic Leadership Programme will support you to develop as a creative leadership practitioner. Within this programme creativity will be focussed upon areas such as communication, strategic engagement, narrative intelligence, developing collective commitment, understanding motivation and leadership itself. And the Rainbow Model will be used to navigate these areas throughout the programme and as a key basis for personal reflection and development.


Find out more about our new Senior Academic Leadership Programme and book your place now


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

Keep up to date - Sign up to Advance HE communications

Our monthly newsletter contains the latest news from Advance HE, updates from around the sector, links to articles sharing knowledge and best practice and information on our services and upcoming events. Don't miss out, sign up to our newsletter now.

Sign up to our enewsletter