Operational Excellence

Creative Project Leadership is a Lost Art

by Brad Egeland, July 23, 2015

True creative leadership sometimes seems like a lost art. Where are the bold decision makers? Where are the change makers? Are too many people just going with the flow in your organization, waiting till the clock hits 5 PM so they can dart out the door? I'm not saying that everyone should be working overtime. Not at all. And I don't think everyone should be pushing 110% utilization. But the creative project leadership needed to get things done and to keep a team focused on the end goals of a project... that's what seems to me like the lost art. 

So how do we ensure we have proper leadership on our creative projects? Get the creative director involved on each project? Not exactly. If you know me well enough, you know that I stand by my theory of a creative director or project office leader needing to be just that; the person in charge of the creative project process that guides careers, helps build and enforce processes, and knocks down roadblocks that stand in the way of project success. Leading a project or getting heavily involved in any ongoing project should only be done in emergency situations.

Check out our blog post to learn more about the importance of creative leadership.

Just the other day, a friend of mine who is ex-military stated that to most of the civilian world, leadership is a foreign language. I think I buy into that as well. Not necessarily civilian versus military. I think it's a foreign language to most of the world, period. Sometimes we're told we need to unconditionally respect someone who has decided to make a personal change on their own accord. With this we are looking at leadership and respect in the wrong context. Respect is earned, it's not a given. And I feel that leadership and respect go hand in hand.

So, how do we show leadership and how do we earn respect? Here are three key ways we can do this:


This alone can gain lots of respect and can serve you well in your leadership role. Use it wisely and act as though you’ve learned from both the good and bad experiences. It’s often hard to accept and follow an inexperienced individual as a leader. However, Someone in a leadership role with solid, relevant, creative experience... that’s much easier. Once you have it, follow the next two items well to keep it going and earn the continued following that you desire and need as a leader.

Integrity and honesty.

Be ethical. Be honest. The two go hand in hand. Do unto others as you would prefer them do unto you. The Golden Rule. Don’t lie to get ahead, and don't cut corners or get things accomplished on your creative initiatives. Be upfront with your team on critical issues, with you senior management, and most of all, be upfront with your project client. Be open and honest on the tough topics because they can and will help you on the tough decisions. They want you to succeed. But that can’t happen if you aren’t giving them the big picture when your creative project or product design hits a snag. And they can’t respect you if you don’t earn it. They also can’t follow if there is nothing leading them.

Follow through.

Everyone can talk the creative talk. But walking the creative walk is often a completely different thing. I can tell my wife fifty times that I’m going to get the air conditioning fixed, but it's just talk until I actually do it. Eventually, talk without follow-through tends to get ignored. When that happens, you’ve lost your leadership status and you’ve lost a lot of respect that you probably worked hard to earn.

What about our readers? What are your thoughts on leadership? How do you earn the role and keep it? What items would you add to the list in this article? Please share and let's discuss.


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