The Character Of A Quality Creative Team Lead Part 4

This is the final piece in a series of posts by David Baker listing essential qualities that the leader of a creative team should possess.


There are many words I could have used for this component of a leader, but curiosity is critical. Closely aligned with this would be perceptive, observant, and inquiring. All these attributes are utilized with a view towards the possibility that the leader is wrong. He or she holds a belief, but is always testing it against new information in new situations to further refine their learning and thus their convictions. They are always on the hunt for new perspectives that can be brought to bear on their management.


By suggesting that a leader needs to be predictable, I’m not meaning to imply (negatively) that they always act the same way regardless of the circumstances. No, it’s more about those they lead being able to anticipate how a leader might think and or act. Leaders are purpose-driven and their actions arise from an observable belief system.


A purposeful leader is one who does things with a purpose. They have a plan, can articulate it, and then see to it that the seemingly random activities of a typical day are actually contributing to the execution of the plan. They aren’t willy-nilly in all sorts of fits and starts. No, they see how the small parts contribute to the larger picture and they execute with that in mind.


Good leaders are self-aware. They know their own tendencies, and they know how their actions affect others. They understand that their great strength, if overused, can be their greatest weakness, and they attempt greater balance and understanding. Good leaders can step outside themselves and make a relatively honest assessment of who they are and how they are conducting themselves. Even beyond being self-aware, they are aware of others and they adapt their own styles to how others learn and communicate best.

Stimulation Primarily from Outside Work

You’d think that any leader who throws himself entirely at work would be good to work for, but that’s not the case. Leaders like that expect too much of others, too. No, you want a leader who lives a more balanced life, understanding the role of work and the role of life outside work. A leader with an interesting life outside work is better at work/life balance issues.


A leader must have a vision of the future. Otherwise, there’s very little likelihood that individual initiatives will be purpose driven. Why does this department or firm exist? How could it be better? What role could we play in the larger picture that would bring greater enjoyment and impact?


How do you measure up against this list? Are there some things to work on? Do you see any patterns that hold you back? Make you very effective?

It’s something to think about, anyway. Great leaders instigate and nurture great culture, and great culture can really make a difference at your firm.

David Baker speaks to, writes for, and consults with the marketing industry via ReCourses, Inc. He’s worked with more than 600 firms individually and thousands of people have been through Recourses seminars.

David owns RockBench Publishing Corp., a traditional and electronic publisher of thought leadership content through which he’s authored and published “Managing (Right) for the First Time”, available via Amazon; and “Financial Management of a Marketing Firm”, available at ReCourses.


One thought on “The Character Of A Quality Creative Team Lead Part 4

  1. Geena

    I think this article touches on the way leadership should be in ANY field, creative or not. You were right to put curiosity at the top of the list. As we learn more and accomplish more, I believe we often forget that a child-like sensibility is often the root of the greatest creative achievements.

    During my last year as an undergrad, I was a part of the in-house design team at a popular copy and print shop. Sure, we worked with many local businesses and citizens who were often older than me, but a large percentage of our clients were people my age. What I noticed about my supervisor Alethea, a friend with whom I keep in touch, is that she was able to simultaneously set me apart from the frustrating, demanding student clients as well as distinguish me as a young individual who had a lot to learn but also a lot to offer. I think recognizing and celebrating differences — in particular age and experience — in each individual on the team is an integral quality of a good leader.

    Being a seasoned designer working with inexperienced whippersnappers must have been tough for my supervisor, but I never felt like I was denied work because of my verdant knowledge. On the contrary, I was given many tasks that I wasn’t sure I could tackle. In the end, I learned so much more that way, and it was because Alethea trusted in my abilities, logic, and problem-solving style. This type of leadership went beyond simple praise or approval; it was acknowledgement of the skills and interests I had as a regular person OUTSIDE of the design field.

    As I delve into my own entrepreneurial endeavors with an online vintage shop, I find myself leading, too, and using the things I’ve learned from Alethea. I found a partner in my roommate, who is 5 years my junior. I admire her for things that go past the scope of design. She wakes up earlier than I do, she finds joy in simplicity, and makes plans and follows through with them. Her sparkling personality and her drive is infectious, and the way she sees the world is truly valuable. This may sound trite, but it’s absolutely true — I may have a lot to teach her, but she teaches me in return. In the realm of photography, catalog layouts, and wardrobe styling, our approaches are very different and may conflict from time to time. But I always remember that what she has to offer, despite those differences, is an elemental part of our formula that keeps us producing quality work that we never tire of.