Leading Creatives

Aug 22 2012

Leading creative people is an oxymoron, because each of us is made creative, created in the image of a creative God. But for the sake of argument (and to preserve my very catchy title), I thought it might be useful to look at a few things that have worked relatively well here for us at Hillsong NYC.

Our creative team, and probably yours, is full of people who have the capacity to be brilliant and excellent at what they do. But so many creative teams struggle with people who don't quite 'get it'. They miss the point, or are so caught up in themselves, riddled with pride or insecurity, often both, that their contribution fails to match their capacity.

Leadership is essential – and while creatives are no different to anyone else, here are some important principles that we've tried to follow as we build our creative team from the ground up:

+ Let them know you value THEM, not just their gift.

'People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care'. It's well used, but true. If you are only investing into people to the extent that their gift can be used, you will be building a very shaky house of cards. But if you build into people's lives because you care about them, this changes everything. Their motivation, their ownership, their example. Everything flows from this.

+ Give them the destination and let them find their own way there.

Don't give people every single step and expect them to reproduce exactly what you've asked for. That's called cloning. After all, isn't the reason you have them involved in the first place because they're creatively gifted in their own right? Empower them to make it better than you would have if you'd done it yourself. Give them the end goal and let them find their way, helping where appropriate. I fully expect that their work will consistently get better over time.

+ Expect their very best.

Don't settle for half-hearted work. Let people know the standard you expect for their playing / involvement / designing. If you communicate that what we're building is worthy of their very best effort, they will rise to that. But whatever you do, don't be content with 'a good try'. Encourage them that this opportunity is deserving of 100% of their focus and energy. If you demonstrate that you expect them to aspire to a high standard, watch what happens.

+ Expect their best to get better as time passes.

Creativity, like any gift or trait, should be seen in an increasing measure as time passes. Today's excellence is tomorrow's mediocrity. If you lead your creative teams well, and constantly keep the purpose in front of people – the songs should be getting better, the players should be improving, and the visuals should be fresh and diverse. Settling leads to stagnancy, leads to entropy, leads to decay.

+ Remind them that they're leaders, not just creatives.

Your people need to know that there's more to them than just a good eye or a fast set of fingers. They need to know that they are called to be examples and leaders in the Kingdom, and all that carries with it. When your team realises their purpose is greater than just playing guitar, or updating your website, not only will they give more of themselves, but they will give better of themselves. They will rise to the responsibilities of leadership, not just the joys of creating. A great way to describe purpose is the place where joy and responsibility meet. Help your creatives find that, and you will be effective.

Gabe