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5 Guiding Principles on How To Become a Good Leader in Your Design Agency

Posted on in Articles · Creative Advice

Leaders make decisions about the people, culture, infrastructure, expenditure, strategy and many others. More importantly, they affect how decisions are made. Working in the design industry has its stakes and challenges.

Defining the right leadership model for your creative teams is absolutely crucial to address problems and opportunities, considering the depth of technology, culture and ethics this industry brings.

So how do you best lead your team to scalability and continuously create inspiration? Here are five guiding principles to help you build good leadership qualities and become a role model in your design agency.


1. Relationship

Good relationships are paramount in your leadership role as it is the key phases of designexecution and evaluation. Without a good relationship, or the interest of building a good relationship would lead to a misfit of needs, suggestions and wants rather than based upon a common purpose that leverages upon the best your creative team can bring.

Not all aspects of a design would be similar when translated into tangible actions. Thus, a good relationship with your creative team enables prompt response to any changes. It also allows stronger and more effective learning within your team during and after the evaluation and execution phase, with a focus on moving forward better rather than falling into a blame game of what did not go well.


2. Intention

Intention forms the second guiding principle in the leadership role. Why are you doing what you are doing right now? How do you help your creative team be more objective? To answer this question, keep in mind these three words. GoalsReasonsOptions.

Being clear about your intentions through your interactions will help you become more prepared and transparent. So convey your message to your team members effectively and make sure they understand your goals and reasons. This will allow your team members to also think along with you instead of being told what to do.

Next, create leaders among your team members instead of followers. Through designated leadership, explore your options and think of ways to provide decision-making opportunities among your team members.

If you have watched the movie Jobs, notice how Steve (brilliantly played by Ashton Kutcher) constantly asked questions like “What do you think?“. Being an exemplary leader himself, he has a genuine attempt to learn from others as well.

Leading by intention and not by demand makes you a better leader and helps your creative team grow with you moving forward.


3. Growth

The third guiding principle is growth particularly in relation to time. The right leadership is always best seen as a trajectory of growth, as a journey rather than end-in-all

Growth needs space. If your design agency is not prepared to accommodate this new aspiration, you will not be able to discover the capabilities of your creative team. They will also find themselves frustrated and feel unappreciated.

Growth also takes time. Time allows for mistakes; and mistakes allow learning. But the refinement of the learning process through reflections will help you and your team buffer against unnecessary reactiveness to the ever-changing external environment.


4. Holistic

It is important to have a holistic principal in your leadership role. This principal guides you to understand the processes, techniques and perception of leadership. For the most part, a holistic process would mean a systematic alignment across 3 general stages. As illustrated below.

Goals are accomplished through the efforts of your team members. Therefore, adapting a holistic leadership will support these achievements in the most desirable outcome in your team. It also helps encourage your team members to align personal achievement goals to organisational goals.

Having said that, does your leadership allow for this development to occur?


5. Tailored

This final guiding principle essentially encompasses the four other guiding principles; whether it means tailoring the way we explore Intentions, or the way we approach Relationships.

Even though you may be leading the team, remember that you are still part of it, and not apart from it. Tailoring and customising your leadership role involves listening to different viewpoints, and then making the right decision to make an impact in your company as a whole.

How does your company perceive leadership? In what areas are you willing to invest to build leadership among your team members? How will you help them grow?



According to Kimberly Fries, good leadership qualities will inspire trust, empowerment and decisiveness.

Suffice to say, if you want to become a good leader in your design agency, remember to inspire trust and help nourish your creative team so that they can become the next generation of creative leaders themselves.



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Currently based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Hazel Lee is a designer, digital marketer and founder of YDJ. This blog was launched in June 2015 with the intention to inspire and support the careers of artists and designers.

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