One thing that separates creative leaders from the pack.

Photo by  Oscar Keys  on  Unsplash

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

I think a lot about creative leadership. What it is, how it comes to be and everything in between.

I’m fascinated by leadership as it is; and write a fortnightly newsletter on marketing leadership which compliments this weekly journal.

On the topic of creative leadership I’ve seen quite a few things break young and emerging designers.

From a lack of support and empathy to provide them with the foundations to learn. To the lack of self awareness within themselves to be able to handle the cadence of a creative career. 

I’ve seen some hit walls in their career, unable to move beyond them. I’ve also seen first hand an inability to be honest with themselves when it comes to the skills they have and the aspirations they hold for their careers.

There are many things that hold us back from creative leadership - but there’s one thing I see more than most.

The inability to be methodical. To see the system they are operating within and maximise its opportunities. 

To use the constraints of their method for creativity, not against it. 

To use their method when it comes to dealing with clients who, let’s be frank, need hand-holding.

Jump to ideas

Idea generation is the fun part of what we do isn't it? We get to imagine, explore and go far and wide to discover a solution to the problem and even push our own creative ability.

Being methodical means there is a time and place for exploration and that time and place is after a problem has been clarified, aligned and confirmed. So many young creatives jump fast into idea generation and forget (possibly deliberately) that there are quite a few things that need to happen before ideas can run rampant.

Inexperienced clients

Being methodical allows us to manage the inexperienced client and often, inexperienced clients exist in many large organisations. 

Recently, my team and I presented a round of ideas for a corporate identity program we've been engaged on. When receiving feedback our client said, "It looks just like the mood board and where is the website?" 

Yes they said this and you're correct in thinking that the website wasn't in our scope of work.

Being methodical allowed us to go back to the contract to show this inexperienced client the correct scope of engagement — and showing them their approved mood board helped them understand the process.

Perseverance, vision and strategic intent

A methodical approach can only be designed by someone who has vision, perseverance and intent.

The creative leader has the vision of the ideal outcome and the project's rhythm. It enables them the ability to design the methodology and processes to get the best out of the teams.

Clear strategic intent is one of the ingredients of good leadership — and of course, good strategy. This intent the perseverance to see it through are the framework for a true, methodical nature.

First principles and systems

First principles thinking is something many people think they do but don't do well at all. You can nerd out on it here — but in a nutshell it's the method and intent to boil problems down to their fundamental truths. Their core. It's the ability to think clearly enough to strip something down to it's bare essential ingredients and then, slowly and methodically, solve the challenge piece by piece; and in turn, make it better.

First principles thinking has you questioning the assumptions that surround a problem and then building an improvement that is true to the heart of the issue.

Creative leadership and the art of being methodical

Many believe that the more processes that are involved in a workplace, the more of a hinderance they are to the output of creativity. 

This can be true if the processes are complex and the methods are unknown to all who are expected to carry them out. But when you have a team of able and methodical creative leaders in a room who embrace the principles above and act in a clear and methodical way, what you have is a fertile playground for creativity to flourish — spending less time talking about the method and more time in it.