5 Simple Tips for Creative Leadership

5 Simple Tips for Creative Leadership

October 22, 2014 by

Being a creative leader is tough, but also rewarding beyond measure. Rewarding because you never have to feel like you are working. You can feel like you are just being you.

It can be tough because you are leading real people. Complicated, delicate, neat, untidy, creative, organized, shy, introverted, extroverted. Some with no head for details of any kind. Some who are so finicky that you end up reviewing a project in minute detail.

The people we lead are all loved by the same God that loves us. The same God gave us our creative gifts. Creative types are a complicated bunch. We delight in the simple things of life, like the flicker of the sunlight through the trees or the placement of text on a page.

“Church communicators are not sausage factories that can churn out work in a set time.”

Simple, yet complicated.

It’s the same in any kind of creative leadership. You can’t reduce creative leadership down to simple slogans because of the nature of creativity. However, here are some principles I’ve found that help me lead a creative team.

1. Clear Direction

Providing clear direction is essential to achieve the right outcome. Designers, photographers, videographers, developers, and communication leaders all need clarity before starting anything.

It’s mostly creative direction. I find the better informed guard rails I provide, the better and quicker the creative output. When I’m vague and ambiguous, it normally takes longer and is less likely to hit the creative mark.

Not all briefs need to be written. Some of the best creative briefs come from conversation. For smaller projects, I rely on verbal briefs. Larger projects usually demand a written brief. Even if it is written, talk to your creative staff. Get them to feed back what they think you’ve written. This normally eliminates misunderstandings.

2. Create the Right Environment

I work in a typical office environment. No windows. Overhead, life-sucking, florescent lights. I could whine and complain about the environment, but I can’t change it.

However, I can let my staff personalize their work space, go for regular walks or work in different spaces with natural light and different seating. Creatives need an environment that fosters creativity. Ask your creatives what would improve their workspace.

3. Educate Around the Creative Rhythm of the Day

We all have a daily life rhythm. Some of us are night owls; some of us are early risers. In the same way we all have a creative rhythm when we are the most creative. Everyone is different. For me, it’s mid-morning until lunchtime. I can’t explain why, but I feel my best creative work is done then.

Your creatives may not be conscious of this and are doing the boring routine work when they could be doing the most creative work. Swap around the work order in the day to get the best creative output at the right time of the day.

4. Give Them the Time to Create

Space. We all love it. Not just physical space, but creatives need headspace where they have time to experiment and develop concepts.

Give them time to create and experiment. Church communicators are not sausage factories that can churn out work in a set time. By giving them time, you will improve the likelihood of a better creative outcome.

Younger creatives especially need the time to explore and grow in their craft. This means you need to protect them and set boundaries from ministry partners who may not understand how long it takes to create something.

You will set your team up for a win if you set expectations for the time required to deliver projects instead of saying yes to whatever time limit a ministry partner requests. You also need to educate ministry partners on the amount of time it takes to finish a particular project.

I regularly ask our music team how long it takes them to create their projects. Why? So I better understand how to factor their part of a project into my timeline. I don’t understand how they do what they do, but I want them to have the optimum space to get the best result.

Not to say there aren’t occasions where you need to drop everything. That happens. But they should be the exception rather than the rule. Your team will thank you for it.

“Offer feedback on at least two things you like before talking about what needs to change.”

5. Provide Regular Feedback

Feedback is one of the biggest challenges leaders have. Some of us can be sergeant majors in our feedback and instruct the poor private on what to do. Some of us are spineless and accept anything we are presented with. It shouldn’t be either of these two leadership models.

Healthy feedback should be normal. If you are leading well, your team should expect your input. Your feedback should only be about the creative piece. Nothing else.

Don’t just give feedback on what you want changed. Offer feedback on at least two things you like before talking about what needs to change. Then finish on another positive bit of feedback. This is the kind of feedback that affirms the creative in what they do. You will also find them more open to constructive feedback on a creative concept if you don’t just focus on what you want changed.

Complicated but Fulfilling

These are just a few ideas that help our team create what we do. Like I said before, creative leadership is complicated, but it can also be incredibly fulfilling.

If any of these resonate with you, check my other blog post: 21 tips that will help you lead creatives.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla.
Post By:

Steve Fogg

Steve serves as the big cheese of communications at his church in Melbourne, Australia; he married way above his pay grade and has three children. Connect with him on his blog or on other social networks.
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5 Responses to “5 Simple Tips for Creative Leadership”

  • Mark Clement
    October 22, 2014

    awesome post. great insights. fyi, we recently did a similar post called ‘6 Ways To Make Your Creative Staff Love You’ that can be seen here http://thecommunicationblog.com/?p=693

    we’ll all keep beating this drum as loud as we can and hopefully some pastors will take advantage :-) such simple things can make a huge difference for their creative staff and for themselves, a win/win if there ever was one.

    keep up the great work.

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  • Steve Fogg
    October 22, 2014

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your insight! so true that simple tweaks can make a huge difference not only to the creative result, but also to the health of the team.



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  • Eric Dye
    October 24, 2014


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  • Devan
    August 24, 2015

    Hi Steve,
    Appreciate your comments on the Creative process and persons… ie. Not everyone can do all creative… graphics, video, etc… I recently had a church leader approach me regarding their desire to do more with visual media/video communication in church, but are needing to have a high proposal outline to present to make it happen to their Board/Leadership Team. With trends leading to 80+% of the world’s internet traffic being video or visual based…. Any thoughts/ ideas /articles of anything you’ve come across that you think would be important for something as significant as this? ie. “Why is it important to have a videographer on church staff” ?


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