The other day I had an illuminating conversation with a kindred spirit who trains and mentors UXers.
She mentioned many UX managers don’t consider themselves creative leaders. They identify as process managers who guide teams through a set of steps. These folks grew into UX management roles through other disciplines rather than “creative” roles (designers, writers, etc.).
While talking with engineers, product managers, and business leaders about Radically Human’s creative leadership intensive, the Radical Visionary, I’ve heard versions of this discussion, too.
These discussions remind me I have a bias. I thought I’d take a moment to describe what we mean at Radically Human by Creative Leadership.
I came to human-centered design through a clear “creative” path (art, music, design). I see everything we do in software and business — engineering, design, strategy development, product management, marketing — through the lens of creative process. I see creative process as a system of complex interactions that take us together down an exciting path. Disciplines bring their own spin, but ultimately, we are all united by a common desire to make something amazing.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is 1+1=3. Creativity is looking in your pantry and making something delicious with only what you find. Creativity is making connections between the seemingly unrelated and, from that activity, bringing something new to life. Creativity is looking up when everyone else is looking down.
Who are “Creatives”?
Anyone who’s job involves creativity (see above). This includes those labeled “creatives” — graphic designers, writers, photographers — but also includes engineers, product managers, interns, sales reps, UX managers, researchers, and business strategists. And pretty much everyone else you can think of.
What is a Leader?
A person who sees possibility, shines light into the darkness, courageously takes the first steps (even when scared) — and asks others to follow.
What is a Creative Leader?
A Creative Leader is someone who leads a group of creatives down a path towards a rarely pre-defined outcome. The result of this collective work is something new, something different, something powerful — something right.
- Creative Leaders have a powerful vision that they can communicate with confidence.
- Creative Leaders work effectively in the context that actually exists — not the one they wish they had.
- Creative Leaders know themselves inside and out so they choose a leadership approach from a palette of options and customize it to the situation at hand.
- Creative Leaders embody leadership in the way they behave, speak, and move.
Examples of Creative Leadership
A Designer charged with optimizing ad unit click-throughs discovers that incorporating competitors into search filters increases revenue for everyone by 200% and creates real value for users. No ad units needed.
The Head of Engineering gets 30 stakeholders in a room to uncover their needs for the coming year — then makes a strong proposal that, while displeasing a few, gets the rest more than they expected in half the time.
A UX Manager stretched thin establishes an innovative pair mentorship program. Junior designers and senior designers work in project pairs — and everyone gets what they needs while the UX Manager leverages her time more effectively.
Inspired to Build Your Creative Leadership Skills?
If this inspires you, consider joining one of our creative leadership intensives. You might not feel like a Creative Leader going in to the workshop, but I guarantee you’ll feel like one coming out of it.
How do you respond to these definitions? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.