Leadership. As defined by that ever-present all-encompassing online authority, Wikipedia, we understand it as… “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” and also “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.”
I feel that some people are born leaders. Certain individuals come into this world with qualities and characteristics that will help them – if properly cultivated and encouraged – to become good and possibly great leaders. Other leaders are made. The environment an individual is raised in plays a large role in whether or not they can or will become leaders. It will be difficult for an individual who is introverted or who lacks proper self-esteem to become a great leader. Future leaders need encouragement along the way to reach that pinnacle.
However they get there, they do get there. How that happens may be fodder for another article. CEOs are certainly leaders of their organization. As are all C-level executives in a company – at least we hope they are. Some are misguided and usually get weeded out along the way, but they are leaders (good or bad) and managed to get to that position through effort and production (or favoritism…who knows?).
The project managers and creative directors that lead our creative teams are also leaders. They are expected to manage our creative projects competently from beginning to end and manage the creative team at the same time. This, of course, is no small task and usually requires some subject matter knowledge – meaning this person has got to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. What qualities, though, are most important when looking for the leaders of our projects and creative initiatives? Let us consider…
Organization. Leaders are organized. They understand the goals and how to get there. And they know what needs to be done today to make progress toward those goals. So from a project perspective, they understand what tasks need to be accomplished, who they need to be assigned to, and the priority in which they need to be done. And they have the follow through to make sure they are done. Leaders don’t just do, they oversee and manage. If they aren’t good at delegating, it will be impossible to get everything accomplished. A good leader understands that and assigns tasks to others on the team and trusts that the people they have chosen will be competent and accomplish those tasks.
Confident decision-making. Leaders need to be counted on to make good decisions under pressure. They need to be able to analyze the information available, understand whether they must get outside input, and then make a decision and stick to it. And back it up. If it turns out bad or causes issues, they need to own it and make it as right as quickly as possible - without throwing others under the bus. That is a real leader.
Honesty. This is an odd one, because we often really don’t know how honest an individual truly is (no pun intended). By this, what I mean is a person of high-integrity. Not too many skeletons in the closet. They do what they say they are going to do most of the time with few glitches along the way. So, basically, they can be counted on for good follow through. In my opinion, if you have a leader who does not demonstrate this characteristic, then you probably need to find a new leader, because they will eventually fail and probably on a catastrophic level.
These are just a few high-level characteristics of good leaders, in my opinion. There are many more that we'll hopefully address in future posts. What are your thoughts on good creative leaders? What characteristics do you look for or expect in a leader?