People sometimes tell me that Creatives are difficult to manage. When I hear this I try to identify the difference really is between Creatives and everyone else. What makes us so different? The answer is in the way we think. The reason universities and MBA programs teach "design thinking" is because we, as Creatives think differently. We use a process in our work that results in images and ideas that nobody else can imagine. We think in terms of possibilities and vision. So when someone tries to "manage" someone who's process is outside of the manager's imagination, the Creative feels swashed. So the answer is to simply stop. Stop trying to "manage" creatives. Instead, lead creatives through the expansive imaginative possibilities with intention and enthusiasm.
By its very nature, creative work is ambiguous and chaotic. Our clients often use obscure phrases like "make it pop," hand gestures, and even sound effects to tell us what they are thinking. The skill in what we do is being able to create something out of ... well, let's face it ... nothing, that visually communicates a message that even our clients can't articulate at times. Leading humans who have that kind of skill requires a more cooperative and creative approach. It requires the ability to build people up and help them see their own value, even when the clients don't. Management does not cut it. For example, Managers of Creatives often try to push them toward templetizing their work, without considering the goals, in order to increase efficiency. That is a punch to the gut of any Creative. With so many quick video and design solutions popping up online, the ability to create content that both looks cool and achieves goals then feels unappreciated and under valued. Leaders of Creatives, on the other hand, encourage Creatives to develop systems that allow the Creatives to focus on creating by reducing mundane, repetitive tasks. That encouragement leads to both an increase efficiency and an increase in productivity. See the difference? The latter could also include developing templates for certain things, like typing names into lower thirds, but it maintains the integrity of the creative process and the intention of achieving brand and client goals on projects moving forward.
I started doing some research on leadership styles, to figure out what type of leadership I have seen really work with Creatives. The type I found is referred to, by the USC Sol School of Public Policy as Postmodern Leadership. It resonated with me as both a Creative and a Leader.
Diversity and inclusion are hot topics now, in the work world. Unfortunately, it has really seemed to be limited to diversity and inclusion of race, gender, and sexuality. Though this type of inclusion is LOOOOOOONG overdue, the work world has yet to fully embrace diversity in personality and work style. The Postmodern Leader embraces and encourages diversity in personality and work style.
The project management world of spreadsheets and swim lanes tend to identify an individual based on their role. While most of the humans in the world are happiest when they can organize projects and humans in this way, Creatives often reject the "stay in your lane" mentality. This is not out of simple rebellion. Our brains just aren't wired that way. We see the world as cumulative pieces of a whole. (After all, we literally make things in that way every day.) Though there are some Creatives who have a strong desire to focus in one creative lane, others possess a vast set of skills that apply to various lanes. The Leader gets to nurture both types of Creatives by seeing the strength that they, ultimately, bring to the team. Giving each Creative space to discover and empowering them to grow into those strengths is one of the greatest rewards for a Leader.
There is also the practical application of such a leadership style, as it pertains to productivity. It takes a lot of energy for someone to hide, mute, or tone down their personalities. Just think of how much energy it takes to keep from crying or yelling when your emotions are running high. It is exhausting! The Postmodern Leader understands and celebrates the individuality of each human and sees the value that uniqueness brings to the team as a whole. Once a Creative is given the space to just be, they can direct all of their energy into their craft and develop the most innovative ideas. Productivity and efficiency increase.
The bottom line... I love people and this style resonates with me as a Creative Leader because it puts the person first. There are all kinds of studies that can tell you anything you want to know about the results of different types of leadership styles. My philosophy is, "We are all humans, just trying to human the best way we know how;" and any type of leadership style that supports that... I'm ALL in.