The Cohen-Miller Report: Leadership & Management – Separate But Equal

by Emily Cohen

Two of the most important functions to consider when developing your department’s organizational structure are those of leadership and management. In a small department, and even sometimes in larger departments, one person is often thrust into the role of both leader and manager. Yet, there is an inherent difficulty in blending and balancing these two very different roles which requires distinct and innate skill sets. Conversely, within the corporate world, “manager” is more often purely a title, used by HR to differentiate their salary level within the corporate hierarchy. In this case, one with title of “manager” may or may not be in the true role of management.

It is important, when evaluating the effectiveness of a creative and marketing team’s business model, to include an assessment of the leadership and management roles and requirements within the current structure/team. The leader’s primary role is team visionary, shaping goals that influence behaviors. Leaders champion both clients and staff alike, exerting influence and taking initiative. Stephen Covey put it best in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” Without strong, visionary leadership, the success of an otherwise great team can be significantly impacted. The infamous expression “a fish rots from the head down” succinctly summarizes what happens when a leader is ineffective.

Alternatively, a manager’s role is to implement and achieve the vision and goals clearly developed by the leader. Managers support and guide change, measure results and assess performance. They teach, educate and mentor the team while the leader inspires. Both parties must perform their function by example.

In developing an effective organizational structure, the leadership and management roles must be considered. Who on your team has the necessary passion, personality and skills to assume these roles? Understandably, on a small team, one person may have to assume both, but larger teams should identify or recruit staff to assume these roles. In the long run, an effective and strong creative organization must have internal capabilities in both leadership and management areas.

Emily has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for over twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice. She helps creative teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes.

Emily currently serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force. Emily has also served as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors and has taught classes and conducted seminars for many leading design schools and organizations. Emily is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry. Learn more at and