Blog > Creative Directors > How a Creative Director Leads Their Creative Team

5 Qualities of a Good Creative Director

April 18, 2023
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6
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If this piece caught your eye, you might either be a new Creative Director or a Creative strongly considering stepping up into a new professional role. Whatever your situation may be, it’s good to educate yourself on everything that goes into a Creative Director’s job.

Leading a creative team can be quite different from leading teams in other industries, because there are unique challenges that Creatives like graphic designers, web developers, and copywriters face.

  • There’s looming deadlines to contend with.
  • Creative project management pressures that come from juggling multiple projects, design sprints, and group VR calls.
  • Clients can change their creative vision and target audience every other day.
  • No matter how much project planning you do, there will always be last-minute projects with tight turnarounds.

A good Creative Director has the professional experiences and the project management skills to navigate their team through all of these challenges. Great Creative Directors are able to do it all while staying true to themselves, displaying excitement to the creative team, and constantly demonstrating to the client that you have their back.

You might be asking yourself how you can even begin to approach leading a creative team. If that’s the case, then let this blog be your guide.

Today, we’re going to take you through some Creative Director best practices to give you the roadmap you need toward becoming the most effective Creative Director that you can be.

Be a Great Communicator.

As a Creative Director, you’ll have to be someone who establishes budgets and timelines, oversees the creative process, and uses your years of experience to get projects completed to the client’s satisfaction.

However, the most important aspect of a Creative Director role is that you must be a great communicator!

It is essential that, as a team leader, you’re able to explain assignments clearly and set crystal-clear expectations and goals to ensure that every member of your team understands the projects you’re working on.

Communication isn’t just about being able to explain projects. You must also know how to give feedback to your team in a way that is constructive and respectful.

This means checking your tone, choice of words, everything about your delivery to ensure that your feedback (both positive and negative) is given in a constructive way to maintain a cohesive environment.

A great communicator is easy to talk to, easy to take direction from, and can make all the difference in a happy working relationship with your team members.

Make Your Team a Safe Space.

A Creative Director with her team. They look unified and ready to work.

The best Creative Directors are those who always look for new ways to bring out the best in their creative team. So much of Creative Direction is really mentoring. You’re helping people become their best selves and using the work as a catalyst for personal growth and professional learning.

Part of creating a positive creative team structure is fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment where everyone knows and understands that their contribution and opinions are both heard and valued.

How does one do that?

Start with your own communication skills. 

  • Be sure that the way you speak or write to your team is positive and constructive.
  • Be a supportive and respectful Creative Director to ensure that your team feels comfortable communicating with you.
  • Encourage your team to work together, communicate, share ideas, and give each other (and you!) the same constructive feedback you give them. Weekly check-ins are a great way to do this.
  • Be available for any questions or concerns. This is very reassuring for Creatives, especially newer ones just beginning their careers.
  • Foster a team environment where everyone is encouraged to be creative, take risks, and explore new ideas together! You can’t accomplish that unless everyone is comfortable working together.

It must also be said that you should go to bat for your teammates. Defend their ideas, even if they're not the clients’ favorites, and don’t bad-mouth them to others.

Your team should always know that you’ve got their back.

Don’t Step on Their Toes.

Just like ballroom dancing, you want to avoid crunching your partner’s toes as you navigate the creative waters together.

If you’re a newer Creative Director, you may not be very far removed from your days as a Creative, but it’s time to get used to it, friend. Learn to delegate, because you’re the creative project manager, not the Creative. Your job is to be a creative manager and mentor, provide direction and feedback, and mediate between the clients and your team.

Fight the urge to micromanage! Not only is it super annoying and frustrating for your creative team, but it causes stress, quashes their creativity, and makes folks less likely to want to work with you. No one likes to be micromanaged and nitpicked, after all.

The best way to show your team that you respect them and trust their creative judgment is to provide a comprehensive set of instructions and creative direction at the start of the project, ensure that they have everything they need to complete the work, then stay out of the process until deliverables are turned in for your approval.

You never know when their next amazing idea will pop up and if you’re hovering and making a nuisance of yourself, you may unintentionally prevent greatness.

In other words, don’t be this guy.

Lead by Example.

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s best we cover it here.

If you expect to get the best out of your creative team, you must first be the best version of “you.” Simply put, this means that whatever you expect out of your team, you must expect from yourself. There should be no, “do as I say and not as I do.” Instead, treat others the way you want to be treated.

  • Be prepared for your meetings so that you honor the time of your team.
  • Turn assignments in on schedule.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Show up to meetings.
  • Communicate in a positive and respectful way.
  • Let people make mistakes, and when they do, take ownership of it yourself.
  • Praise your team publicly and bring corrections privately.

A leader who doesn’t follow their own expectations is not a leader that inspires greatness, so make sure you’re on your A-game.

It would also be a good idea to keep yourself up to date with the newest social media trends and updates on tech and software, like Adobe or Figma. It’s good to know the tools that are available to you and your creatives and, as a graphic design mentor, if your team is not aware of a tool that makes their job easier, you should bring it to their attention.

Celebrate Your Team’s Wins … and Their Losses.

It’s easy to celebrate wins. They feel good, everyone’s happy, and celebrating comes naturally. But just as much as you celebrate a glowing review or a gushing email from a client, you should also celebrate the great ideas that didn’t make the final cut.

Just because the client didn’t like something, doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a great idea.

Celebrating wins and losses will encourage your Creatives to keep trying and keep pushing the creative envelope.

Praise overall boosts your team’s morale. You want to empower your team and encourage them, no matter what stage of their career they may be in.

If you can do this, you’ll have a crowd of Creatives who are much more likely to communicate with you, accept your feedback, and produce high-quality deliverables!

<div class="c-blog_comp-cta cc-component-2"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-wrap"><img src="https://global-uploads.webflow.com/61cdf3c5e0b8155f19e0105b/6369519c2ccf5cbe678f6ba9_Current-Creative.png" loading="lazy" alt="" class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-img"></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-right cc-dark"><div class="c-blog_comp-content"><div class="c-text-wrapper cc-mb-32"><div class="c-title-4 cc-bold"><strong>Grow with a community that is exclusively inclusive!</strong></div></div><div class="c-text-wrapper"><div class="c-text-2">Get inspiration from creative directors and level up from emerging creative to Chief of Design by collaborating on projects.<br><br></div></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-wrapper"><a href="http://designity.com/creatives" target="_blank" class="c-button w-button"><strong>Discover Your Growth Path</strong></a></div></div></div>

Take the Reins.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what it takes to be a great creative mentor and leader, it’s time for you to take the reins and lead!

Whether you're about to step into a new career as a Creative Director or you’re just looking to improve your leadership skills, following these best practices is an excellent way to set yourself up as a successful leader that Creatives are lining up around the block to work with.

What do you look for in a creative leader?

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Sara, a Designity content writer.
About the author:
Sara Lopez
Sara is a Texas-based copywriter.
Interested in content collaboration? Email at press@designity.com
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