The question caught me off-guard. I was in an interview to lead a design department. It shouldn’t be a tough question. Yet the way it was asked seemed to imply that I needed to have a pat answer at the ready.
The truth? I want to take time to get to know the team and then together, develop a leadership philosophy for that group, in that place, in that time.
Upon reflection, there were opposing philosophies at work behind his question and my dumbfoundedness. His presumption was that there is an Absolute. That one can have a philosophy that crosses all groups and provides a magnetic north at all times. Aside from what I take for granted in a good team: integrity, honesty, mutual support, and giving our best work for the good of the project/client, I have a more democratic approach.
Consensus vs Command
In consensus, each person has a voice at the table. Though in the end, decisions need to be made, during the process of brainstorming or growing a department, space should be provided for each opinion. I’m much more likely to throw myself into a project when I feel a sense of ownership. I prefer to provide that for my team members as well.
Enabling vs Controlling
I’m not interested in dictating to mini-me’s. My preference is to assess someone’s strengths and weaknesses and empower them to move forward. If I trust a designer, I tend to be hands off, yet remain available for comments and help if they (or the client) request it. I don’t like to be micro-managed and therefore don’t work well with someone who requires it.
Fostering Independence not Dependents
I want to equip each member of a team to be a self-sufficient, yet respectful member of a healthy whole. When unclear about direction, sure, ask good questions, but at some point, take a stab at it and then show me what you’ve got. In the experience design world, design targets remain in motion until the curtain rises (so to speak). If you can’t design within a fluid environment, it’s not the industry for you!
My design philosophy? Find great people. Empower them. Trust them. Then work together to create powerful, on-target, on-brand, compelling solutions for amazing clients.