Be an “Unofficial” Creative Team Leader


Become a team leader

It’s a classic catch-22: You’re given responsibility for a design project for a client, but no formal authority over the other players who will assist you in the assignment. How do you exert your influence in such a situation? Consider the following 5 tips:

1. Don’t fake it.
No one wants to be told what to do by someone who isn’t his or her supervisor, so don’t project a false sense of power over your colleagues. Approach them as equals and project a “we’re all in this together” attitude. For example, at the project kickoff meeting, you might say, “I’m here because I oversee our customers’ online experience, and I’m hoping we can all work toward a solution to ensure that experience is cohesive throughout our brands.”

2. Play up the positives.
Begin by explaining the benefits of the project to generate buy-in from those whose support and assistance you’ll need. If you’re trying to persuade other managers in your firm to switch to an eco-friendly print shop, for instance, start by emphasizing the upsides. They may be able to use green printing as a selling point when marketing the firm’s products or services to clients, for instance. The goal is to position the project as a winning solution for everyone involved.

3. Know your stuff.
If you’re leading the charge to streamline the tracking of creative pieces throughout the production cycle, educate yourself on the current system before acting. Talk to various stakeholders and ask for their views: What do they like about the system that is used now? Where do frustrations arise? Also ask for suggestions for improvement. Gather all of the input, share it with the group and demonstrate how their feedback informed the solution. In this way, your colleagues will feel that they had a say in the process.

4. Aim to inspire.

As the project evolves, remain open to others’ ideas and points of view. Doing so will help you build—and maintain—enthusiasm among the team. If you continually erect roadblocks or shoot down viable ideas, you’ll have difficulty generating the support you need. If, after considering a colleague’s suggestion, you decide it’s not feasible, explain why.

5. Adapt to the situation.

Sometimes, you’ll have trouble getting buy-in from others, no matter how well you present an idea or how passionate you are about it. In such cases, you may need to adjust your project’s goals or the timing of your initiative in order to complete it successfully. Effective leaders aren’t stuck in one mindset; they realize that flexibility is a necessary attribute, especially in changing times, when the company’s objectives and priorities may be in flux.

Above all, remember that the most successful leaders—whether they have formal authority over their project’s team members or not—are skilled at building solid relationships with colleagues throughout the organization. They are enthusiastic, collaborative and diplomatic. After all, these leaders know that they can’t do it alone.