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The Four Facets of Effective Creative Leadership

Four Facets of Effective Creative Leadership | The Creative Executive

There’s vulnerability, inherent chaos, and unchartered waters in pushing creative boundaries and it takes a nuanced leader to manage well. Leadership can make or break creative teams. It can make all the difference in how you and your team experience the day-to-day, weather challenges, and succeed in actualizing your mission and vision. Of all the facets of effective creative leadership, we’ve picked our top four.

Respect the Process

As creative executives, we sometimes assume that process means imposing a structure around that messy, yet beautiful, act of creation. But total chaos can yield products without customers and leave a wake of frustrated team members trailing behind. We’re not talking about a strict step-by-step here, by process, we simply mean “culture.” And culture just really just comes down to how you do the work. As a leader, you build your creative culture one-step of your work process at a time – providing a structure through a strong vision, setting and sharing goals, checking in, making people feel heard, and celebrating milestones.

Balance Strengths + Gaps

As a leader, you must understand the gaps in yourself, in your individual team members, and in your team as a whole. Then you must find ways to fill those gaps. The fact is, we all have weaknesses. The important thing is how we understand and work with them.

Do you know what gives your team it’s creative edge? It comes down to profoundly understanding yours and team members’ strengths and finding ways to wield them. Your people want to be challenged and be a part of the solution. Acknowledge how everyone’s contribution fits into the bigger picture. Your team members will love you for it because it sets them up to shine in significant ways.

Inspire Progress

When it comes to leadership, inspiration beats an iron fist every time. Bullying, yelling, and other negative enforcement might get you a short-term result, but managing your team this way will never create the passionate engagement you need for the long haul.

Do you know what your people care about and what makes them tick? Spend time with your team members to understand their answers to big questions such as career goals, personal aspirations, and values. But don’t forget about to be curious about how your people show up at work. What excites and bores them? Who is motivated by collaboration? By autonomy? Who loves process, organization, and structure? Who shines while ideating and improvising?

To manage through inspiration, you must take the time to get to know your people and appeal to what makes each team member tick. It’s an exercise in building trust with consistency and openness over time

Take People on a Journey

No matter how seasoned or confident creative leaders are in our work product, being able to pitch and sell our vision is paramount. You’ll need to inspire your team, of course, but often overlooked is the ability to persuade those key collaborators and internal stakeholders outside of your team. In matrixed organizations, you often work with people that don’t report into you but are critical to your success in the organization.

You must not only get your team on board for the trip, but you must sell tickets to the collaborators and internal stakeholders, and when the work is complete you must invite your clients on the same journey. It’s an equally important skill for delivering great work. As Peter Cougher says in his brilliant book, The Art of the Pitch, “Bring the same level of creativity to selling the work as you brought to creating the work.

Being able to confidently pitch, persuade, and influence people at every level is not something most people are born with. It’s a muscle we have to train and exercise. There are a great many resources and role models when it comes to the art of the pitch. Here are a few of our favorites.

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