Mary Kay with students at work in the background.Creativity is as essential to business leadership as having a business to lead, says Mary Kay Culpepper, the retired editor-in-chief of Cooking Light, the country’s largest epicurean magazine during her tenure.  Culpepper recently met with UAB MBA students studying leadership in Professor Stephen Yoder's MBA 698 “Leadership Principles and Applications" course.

Now an artist and consultant, Culpepper is pursuing a master's of science degree in creativity at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at State University of New York-Buffalo State. She is a 2011 Mary Murdock Scholar and was awarded the school’s certificate in creativity and change leadership in June.

During her remarks at UAB, she noted that many current observers of leadership now recognize the importance of creative thinking and problem solving for leaders. “Business is more complex than ever. Product cycles are shorter, economic demands are unrelenting, and technology is constantly changing the way we live and work,” she said. “In times like these, creativity is a core leadership competency. In devising new and innovative solutions to problems, effective business leaders have much in common with other creative thinkers, such as writers, artists, and scientists.”

As part of the class Culpepper visited, students discussed their own creative decision-making styles. Students also watched as Culpepper debriefed Professor Yoder on his own thinking profile for creativity, based on the FourSight approach to solving complex problems. Culpepper is certified in administering an assessment for this profile, which was developed by at SUNY-Buffalo State.

Professor Yoder's leadership class offers an interdisciplinary approach to learning and applying leadership, from political science, ethics, psychology and history, as well as from business.

Culpepper describes her current work as an artist, editor and creativity facilitator.