What follows are a few insights I've (l)earned at a specific moment in my career during or after wrestling with a specific situation, team, person, or project. I've kept this running list to ingrain them as truths for future reference.
Many thanks to past bosses and colleagues that shared their thoughts with me at the moments I needed to hear them most. (And of course to wonderful folks like David Sherwin, Alastair Simpson, and Randy J. Hunt who take the time to share their knowledge more broadly.)
Note: Never forget that leadership both asks and takes a lot more of you than anything you can read on bulleted list.
- Leadership comes in many forms—not just by those ‘at the top’ or with more seniority. (Typically those people get to the top because they’ve chosen to see themselves as leaders, where there were none.)
- There are different styles of leadership. Understand when and how each can serve you.
- Find/create your own opportunities—that means questioning the way things are and forging new ways forward. (Pro tip: Understand if things are the way they are because that's the way they've always been or because someone actually wants them to be that way!)
- Don't accepting ‘good enough’—it’s the enemy of the ‘great’. (That said though, being acutely in tune with yourself and each team member to understand what they are capable of and where to push them just enough is critical to eliciting the best work out of them.)
- Side note: ‘just enough design’ ≠ ‘good enough design’. The difference is what a design calls for VS the amount of effort folks are willing to put in to achieve that output.
- Make decisions—especially the tough ones—when no one else will. (For fuck’s sake, it’s called leading for a reason.)
- Don’t assume you need permission to own parts of the project you’re currently working on.
- Never let anyone above, on, or below your level see you sweat.
- Tow the company line. Evangelize the company.
- Foster project ownership among your peers and clients.
- People come first. Companies are just collections of people.
- Understand your own creative disposition and those of your teammates.
- Always be able to answer the question ‘Why?’ (Or try to.)
- Communicate up, down, and across.
- Radiate your intent.
- Champion the successes of your team. After the art it’s all marketing.
- Continuously work to identify opportunities for your team to stretch themselves and grow.
- Work with unparalleled enthusiasm. Never, ever let the day-to-day get in the way of long term vision and goals.
- See from miles to microns.
- Apply steady, constant pressure.
- Understand the weight of your words to the person hearing them. Ditto for actions.
- Become acutely aware of the burnout you can cause in other people.
It's not personal, it's just business. ” FUCK YOU, it’s always personal.
- Sometimes all you need to do is listen. Other times, listening is just the beginning.