An Interview With Todd Henry on Creativity, Productivity, and Passion for Work

In this interview, I had a candid chat with Todd Henry, an author and speaker who has made significant strides in the field of creativity, leadership, and professional development.

Henry started his career in the trenches as a creative director, which gave him first-hand exposure to the practices that separate successful creative professionals from those who struggle.

Since then he’s positioned himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, teaching leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance.


the accidental creative

The Accidental Creative

Generate brilliant ideas on demand

Todd Henry Interview

1. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became passionate about helping creative professionals and leaders develop their

At one point I was a creative director leading talented creative pros, and realized quickly that many of the people on my team who consistently delivered great results had practices that helped them stay fresh and viable, whereas many of those who struggled were kind of “winging it”.

I began to study what seemed to be working, and distilled it into a set of practices that seemed to help pros stay effective.

2. What are the main challenges that your readers and clients typically face?

herding tigers

Herding Tigers

Master the transition from maker to manager

We have to create “on demand” every day, meaning we have to solve problems with tight timelines and often limited budgets.

So, we have a need to generate great ideas quickly and execute them efficiently in order to deliver the value we’re being paid for.

3. What are some common misconceptions you’ve encountered about creativity and the creative process, and how do you address them in your work?

People think it’s all about talent, but I’ve witnessed many very talented people burn out and eventually wither into mediocrity because they simply couldn’t sustain the pace.

Talent will get you a seat at the table, but it’s your practices that keep you in the game.

4. Can you give our readers an insight into your daily routine and how you incorporate ‘creative rhythms’ in your own life?

louder than words

Louder Than Words

Harness the power of your authentic voice

My day begins the same every day.

I spend an hour in study, thought, and writing and I have for twenty-five years.

It’s the best way for me to ensure that I am keeping my mind viable and preparing for whatever might come my way that day.

5. Which authors or thinkers have had the most significant impact on your work and ideas?

  • Thomas Merton
  • Seth Godin
  • Viktor Frankl

6. What are your thoughts on the role of collaboration in the creative process, and how can creative professionals maximize the benefits of teamwork while maintaining their unique perspectives?

Collaboration is necessary, but doesn’t supplant the need for individual work.

Teams function best when everyone commits to their individual thought and work, then they come together to compare notes and decide on a best path forward.

When we attempt to do work as a group, the work is likely to stall and/or falter.

7. How do you balance the need for structure and discipline with the freedom and flexibility required for creativity and innovation?

What we need to aim for is bounded autonomy, or freedom within limits.

Complete freedom is not helpful in the creative process. Instead, it’s valuable to give yourself or your team artificial constraints that can channel their creative energy.

Those constraints can be questioned and even moved, but they provide a deep channel through which the team’s efforts can flow.

8. Your book “Louder Than Words” focuses on harnessing the power of your authentic voice, which many creatives might feel is challenging under the pressure to conform. How can readers become more comfortable sharing their true selves?

Daily Creative

Gain focus for your day and advance toward your goals

You develop your voice through use.

If you feel perfectly comfortable with every idea you share and every thought you put into a meeting, you probably aren’t stretching yourself enough.

Too many people wait to become comfortable before they speak or put work into the world, and that’s the opposite of what they should do.

You do not develop your voice through introspection or navel-gazing. Instead, you need feedback from others.

You need to understand how the world receives your perspective, just like you need a mirror to see your face.

9. Your book “Herding Tigers” focuses on leading creative teams effectively. Can you share any strategies that leaders can implement to improve a team’s performance and creative output?

The key is learning to balance stability and challenge.

Ensure that your metrics are aligned with your incentives, and that you are providing the proper resources and direction people need in order to do what’s being asked of them.

If you’ve hired talented people, they will thrive when provided with the right balance of stability and challenge, but it’s up to you to figure out what that balance is for each person on your team.

10. What are your favorite books that you feel should be required reading?

The Motivation Code

A new framework for understanding what motivates us

  • Purple Cow (Seth Godin)
  • Man’s Search For Meaning (Viktor Frankl)
  • Orbiting The Giant Hairball (Gordon MacKenzie)

11. In your book “Die Empty,” you explore the concept of unleashing your best work every day. Many creatives feel they need to hold back and conserve their output. How can people overcome this tendency?

Your work is not for you, it’s for others.

Once you embrace this, you see that it’s selfish and egoistic to hold onto your work or withhold your contribution because you don’t feel as valued as you think you should be or you feel ill-equipped to be doing the work.

Your job is simply to do the work, then to put it into the world where it can be of use to others.

Some people refuse to do so because they’re afraid it won’t be as valuable as they’d hoped.

However, it may be far more useful than they’d imagined.

The only way to know is to put it into the world where it belongs.

Again, it’s not about you.

12. Finally, what is one key piece of advice you would give to our readers who are seeking personal growth and development?

Recognize that today is the only thing you are promised.

If you are waiting for some day in the future when you feel more equipped or the stars are better aligned, you are engaging in wishful thinking.

The key is to take one step today – even a small one – in the direction of your ambitions.

Refuse to take your best work to the grave with you as so many before you have done. Choose to die empty.


  1. Sustainable Practices Over Talent: Consistent, sustainable practices that keep individuals productive and innovative in their work.
  2. Creative Challenges: Creative professionals often face the task of generating high-quality ideas under strict deadlines and budget constraints. Developing effective strategies to manage these demands.
  3. Collaboration and Individuality: While collaboration is vital, it doesn’t replace the need for individual work.
  4. Authentic Voice: Using one’s authentic voice, even under pressure to conform, is essential for creatives.
  5. Daily Output: Contribute your best work every day, rather than holding back or waiting for ‘the perfect moment.’