I Want to Work for This Guy :: Creative Leader (Part 12)
The following is true for the creative team and their team of volunteers.
Talent is always drawn to other talent because talented people like being around talented people. And yes, creative people like being around the creative.
The ability to do this — attract the best people — is one way Creative Leaders measure themselves. They are always looking for new talent that fit where they are currently and where they want to be in the future.
And in the church world, this is a very important process when building solid volunteer teams.
Recruiting is important, but also remember — a Creative Leader must foster a culture and environment that
- keeps the talent productive and happy.
- provides for development
- makes the talent know they are valued
Bottom Line :: A Creative Leader who gets results and helps people get where they want to go in their area of passion and skill — a funny thing happens — talent will want to be around and they will stick around.
Good Creative Leaders are constant. You don’t have to worry about this with them. You always know what to expect. A successful Creative Leader is reliable. They are responsive and always deliver on the promises they make.
When things seem to be a mess, they are focused and composed. This consistency helps others control their emotions and actions too. A good Creative Leader doesn’t point the finger — they are fact finders — and take action only on those facts.
A consistent Creative Leader understands that those around them take their cues from their actions. They know that if they act with consistency, those they lead will act in the same way.
You’ll hear church leaders say that talent, culture, and strategy will make or break you. And that’s true in the big picture of things. But “in the micro,” I believe that success is in relationships. And good relationships begin with trust. Always.
You always know where a respected Creative Leader stands. Their trust is grounded in consistency and character. They are genuine and never carry a hidden agenda or say different things to different people. Decisions are always based on the best outcome not on the easy and the profitable.
A Creative Leader is approachable and almost always available. They understand wisely that open doors and private confidences supply them with a valuable resource :: genuine relationship.
I’m sure you can hear your mother, your dad, or maybe one of your former teachers say, “The world isn’t fair.”
And it isn’t fair most of the time. But a true leader is.
Describing a true and successful Creative Leader ::
- inspires trust
- stimulates loyalty
- motivates excellence
…this leader works to keep themselves responsible and liable to the same rules and regs as those they lead. No thrones. No leading from on high, but by example.
Their teammates are treated as equals. And a successful Creative Leader lives and works with the team and doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty. Ever.
It’s true. And it’s necessary — a leader must have rules. But slight departures and mistakes are allowed. We all make mistakes. A leader knows when these errors come from right intentions. Use these instances as moments to teach.
Focus on the right things and ask the right questions — what’s important? — what’s not? That’s how you truly know what’s truly fair. It’s also the way those you lead know they are being treated fairly.
No, the world isn’t fair, but a leader can act fairly ::
- Walk the Talk
- Make sure the Rules are Clear
- Keep Personal Bias at Bay
- At in Good Faith
It takes focus. You can do it!
Talented Creatives want to and demand to be part of something bigger. They live and work and dream of saying, “I helped create that.”
And they will soon learn that those big moments are rare. Or at least they don’t come every day or even every week. Successful Creative Leaders, however, recognize those big moments and take advantage of them.
You can rev up your team of talented Creatives with a bunch of rah-rah speeches for a while. And doesn’t matter how good you’re at it. Or how much conviction you have.
Why? Because this is the big leagues now. They need more. Your team wants to know that they’re part of a greater purpose. And a church’s creative team has the ultimate purpose — proclaim Christ to the world. It must be their passion.
Your team wants a Creative Leader who has a vision and a clear plan for making their purpose a reality — feel essential — and see their ideas and their hard work produce something significant. Their passion, their work — Significant enough to bring life-change.
But also, talented Creatives want to share in the benefits (and receive some credit). Creative people come-and-go, including you. That’s why a Creative Leader must focus on building loyalty to the mission that will ultimately outlast you.
Of course it requires buy-in – and the passion it produces – and it requires more thank the Creative just knowing where the mission is taking them and why. It’s deeper than that. It has to be there day after day. Creatives can only pump themselves up so much and that’s why Creative Leaders require contagious and lasting enthusiasm.
Your team will always need to see the positives and understand the progress. They want to laugh and have loads of fun in the process too. A solid creative process will always allow that. It will make room for it. It will unite your team.
The Creative Leader must remind each team member of why they do what they do — why their work is relevant and important — and what the community as a whole will gain from the collective passion of the creative team. And it will will demand more than a few well crafted speeches or “at-a-boys.” Reinforce the mission — this is your job. Make it clear every day, in your modeling and in your conversation.
Let your passion fuel theirs. That’s what a Creative Leader does!
Every day and every time I look into the eyes of a guy or gal on my team I’m asking, “How can I make them better?”
I know (and hope) you are asking that question too. Every Creative Leader should be extremely focused on this endeavor. But how do you do it?
Don’t pigeonhole any teammate. This is a big no-no, but very easy to do. But let me clarify and qualify this statement a bit more. Don’t center your attention on what he can’t do or even what is being said about him. Don’t ignore that information, but pay attention to what he can do and what he could do if he was led a bit differently. A leader should be good at realizing the capabilities of a worker.
When you hire, don’t focus on today, but hire for the future. A leader is able to see potential.
Keep track of the personal interests of your teammates. People will almost always exhibit abilities that are tied to these interests.
Always be looking for opportunities to build confidence in your teammates. Even if you have some inkling that they may fall short, give them the chance. Absolutely — a leader should be ready to rescue, however — any trials the teammate goes thru or any error they may commit will finally lead them to success.
Be a good coach. Good Creative Leaders are coaches — always seeing what others can’t. You’ll see it if you look for it. Push your team (individually and corporately) to a level they could imagine on their own. Everyone will reap amazing and exciting rewards.
The successful and wise Creative Leader is a model first. And when it comes to excellence, a leader doesn’t demand or command excellence — the “bar of excellence” is set by the leaders actions, work ethic. It is set by their example.
Because Creatives do what they do for Jesus, the bar is high and life-changing events and moments are expected. Remember, this is an everyday occurrence — week after week — 52 weeks a year. That’s every seven days.
Because this is so important and because it’s a constant demand, a good Creative Leader is always asking, “Is this the best I can do. Is this the best my team can offer?”
Goals are set. The leader keeps the team, individually and corporately, focused and tuned in to the task(s) at hand. Creative leaders understand that the creative process is important and must be a habit — a good one. But a the leader also knows that the team must be kept from falling into bad habits or ruts.
Creative results — is the product. Life-change — is the goal. So a leader pushes the team to continually stay sharp and to continually evaluate product and process.
And the Creative Leader knows that their example sets the tone for the rest of the team.
This means that the leader teaches the team to share the load. This creative thing is a team effort. Excellence is the target and is almost always accomplished by a team not an individual.
Special Note to the Creative Leader:
Sometimes during a specific project, and occasionally, a leader must play favorites. Why? Strictly because of performance. The job has to get done and one individual (at that specific time) is pulling the train or the majority load.
But this is a two-way street. The Creative Leader must understand why this individual is excelling but also identify why others in this occasion seem to be hitting limits. Analyze both and then lead both.
One of the characteristics I wrote about two weeks ago was “experience” — Part 3 of this Blog Series :: a leader must remember that their experience equips them to excel. Not all of your teammates are there. It is your job as Creative Leader to nudge them to a higher level — constantly.
This is what a leader does. And if you do, your team will outperform any other creative team. They will probably surprise you too.
And that’s why you, as Creative Leader, need to model excellence — day-after-day — year-after-year.
Always model it before demanding it!
I talk about this one in my book, The Blame Game. And a Creative Leader of any tenure knows this one all too well: Creatives don’t color inside the lines. And Creatives don’t play inside the lines very well either.
I’ll wait until you stop laughing before I proceed — because it gets better.
Creatives also tire very quickly of taking orders.
(Another break for laughter)
It’s true isn’t it? Do you know how you know this so well? Because you are a Creative. Reality is that you now have the opportunity to lead those very much like you. How lucky you are!
That’s why a successful Creative Leader provides those they lead opportunity for ownership. This is what a leader does and this is what a solid creative process provides.
A Creative Leader doesn’t look over the Creative’s shoulder. They provide freedom :: getting out of the way, turning your Creatives loose to create, learn, explore …
Guide them. Lead and usher them toward better creative choices.
Resource them. Provide what they need to be completely successful.
A Creative Leader provides … space. As much space as possible. And in that creative playground and safe boundary, a place to figure out how to create and re-create … by themselves and with their teammates.
This is how Creatives become better Creatives.
You must trust — this is the place a successful leader operates from — not a lot of second guessing. You can’t control everything anyway. You may think you can, but a true leader knows otherwise.
Will mistakes happen with this plan? Yes. But be honest — mistakes will happen with any plan. So back your team instead of throwing them under the bus. Of course you correct and guide. Absolutely learn from mistakes.
Believe in your Creatives. Give them your best support. Give them permission to do their best. They in turn will give their Creative Leader :: creativity and loyalty,
And in my opinion, this is what separates the great leaders from good ones.
Great Creative Leaders are great listeners.
Follow my thinking on this one ::
Great leaders are always learning. Great leaders have learners working for them too. This can never go away. Learning should never stop, especially once you’ve been given authority. And this separates the good from the great — true Creative Leaders excel at this.
Consistent questions. Questioning everything. They excel because they are insatiably curious and never satisfied. They aren’t scared of people of different backgrounds or of someone with greater expertise – Heck, they run after it and utilize their abilities. A leader finds a way to make themselves and their teams better by the interaction with these people.
And in the fine arts field where creative technology is always pressing forward — leaders know and recognize that change isn’t a threat. No. Creative Leaders adapt to it (Even lead it). Don’t be left behind. I’ve seen leaders that were left behind.
Remember: The fastest way to lose your credibility is to lose touch with what’s happening – and show no interest in catching up.
I believe that talented people are always looking for a way to say “yes” instead of “no”. So we listen — leaders must listen.
Let’s look at listening in one more way before we finish. Leaders are not afraid of bad news or criticism — even when it reflects poorly on them. Why? Because they listen and see this difficult dialogue as constructive, knowing it could ultimately lead to possible alternatives and growth. This type of listening moves a leader forward.
In short, real leaders are always listening, absorbing input and then they take action. And this matters because it keeps a Creative Leader learning, and thinking, and creating and moving forward.
Are you listening!?!
As a Creative Leader you will need to meet with your team often — individually and corporately. It’s part of what a creative team does.
Collaboration is difficult without time spent together. It makes creativity come alive. Responsibilities and assignments have to be reviewed. Timelines have to be tweaked. All of these require some type of meeting.
But this isn’t the kind of time I’m talking about.
To become a great leader, you must make each teammate’s success your personal goal. The best leaders are always talking to those that report to them — spending quality time with them.
Leaders always take time for coaching and training. They provide consistent and regular feedback on job performance. And take this seriously. Teammates that really care about their work require, and even crave candidness and hate sugarcoating the real story.
And this is important: successful Creative Leaders pay attention. They truly care about those that work for them and stay in touch on a personal level — home, family, spouse, kids. You can never forget that the “life outside of work & church” influences their success as much as any guidance.
This well-spent time is how a leader knows when to push and when to pull back.
I value my teammates because they are also my friends. I want them to know that I value them. It inspires them. When they are inspired, they are more passionate about their work (their passion). We laugh and pray together as a team and in our one-on-one meetings.
Yes, as I said earlier, I must meet with those who work for me — meetings to get “work done.” But we also meet every other week for our 20/20 meeting. We talk about successes at work and at home. We talk about their spouses, vacations, children, We’ve even had discussions about mother-in-laws. We talk about things that are going right, and red flags that we need to be conscience of.
A leader knows that quality time effects a lot of areas :: Strengthening the relationship with the worker. Increasing the team’s chemistry and productivity. Improving and magnifying the creative product. Providing overall success to the organization. It’s a ripple.
And it’s time well spent.
So remember, we’re talking about the Creative Leader. The Creative Leader is a skilled creative and skilled and gifted people care about where they are going — their future and occupation endeavors are important.
We all have “a beginning,” but as I stated earlier, the talented pay attention to where they are going. This applies not only to the Creative Leader but to the Creatives. And leader, your leadership should help them get to where they want to go in their occupational future.
Understand what they are seeing and noticing in following you — your endeavors, yes, but they are also learning from your experiences. That’s part of the reason why you are the Creative Leader. Your team probably sees where you’ve been. They should know that you were once where they are. You understand them.
Lead them. And remember, a leader mentors. The Creative Leader, because of experience, should share that experience with his Creatives.
Share what you know. They’ll learn greatly from that knowledge. And hopefully sooner than you did. They’ll do a better job. They’ll develop faster and they’ll become better at their skill.
And final thought :: they can learn from your wins and your losses. Tell the good and bad of your past experiences. Help your Creatives make fewer mistakes than you did. Help them succeed from the stories of your past successes.
Your experience is important to you, and to them also!