12 elements of design leadership

In an interview the common question that comes up is about my leadership style, my answer is about how interchangeable the communication methods are but how there are consistent elements. Not all of these are about how you people manage but they are some great approaches to become a better leader. In no particular order...

  1. Understand that your job now has several parts that are self defined and constantly evolving. Set a monthly time to quickly evaluate if you're devoting time to the most valuable things.
  2. Write clear instructions on how best to communicate with you and what you appreciate. I find a user manual works best for this. I ask all of my team to create these, then we have dinner and discuss them.
  3. Respect 1:1s and allow your team to set the agenda. Be approachable, transparent, make time and make sure your expectations are clear.
  4. Ask more questions than you answer. This creates focus and direction but it's also bloody difficult. You're not there to solve problems anymore, you're there for direction and guidance.
  5. Create goals and hold your team accountable. Your team won't reward you for being too loose here. Set goals collaboratively, it's imperative for a high performing team. Be honest about the things that aren't going well.
  6. Celebrate your team and create space for them to present and shine. Share their work outwards and upwards with leadership.
  7. Tailor your management style to your team. Ask your leadership team about their preferences and what they care about.
  8. Communicate the value of design. Don't let your process be a mystery, the more people that understand your hard work and impact the more people that will make time and champion design.
  9. The brand of your team exists and it's your job to curate it for hiring. Always be in this mode of promoting. Always expect growth and understand your team's needs. You're responsible for making it enticing to work for your company.
  10. The respect and communication you build across orgs is not just about relationships, it also translates to credibility for your team.
  11. Translate the corporate strategy into opportunities for design that will help provide a competitive advantage. Create a clear story that connects the corporate strategy to the user experience and the objectives you create for design.
  12. Get good at flying at two altitudes, delivery for next week and investing in next year. Invest in exploration and use it to communicate the value of experience improvements.