Paradoxes of (design) leadership

Being a design leader is worthwhile challenge — rewarding yet difficult. Indeed, it involves a mix of paradoxical qualities that take practice & effort to master, over much time!

  • Be humble in receiving inputs, yet defend a point of view
  • Know when to say you don’t know, yet project confidence in knowing the path to steer everyone forward
  • Enable a cooperative team dynamic, yet be (or project) that you’re the clear leader or owner — who’s ready to take the hits!
  • Admit fault/mistakes/failures, yet inspire your team to do what’s risky or boldly novel
  • Acknowledge team uncertainty or anxiety, yet guide the team with reassuring confidence 
    • (sidenote: I remember reading long ago that one definition of leadership is the “reduction of uncertainty” about a situation)
  • Keep your emotions in check, yet don’t be a cold robot — acknowledge others’ emotional vibes
  • Know what’s worth fighting for, yet don’t be a doormat (or an always raging bulldog) 

And on and on… there’s a certain deft, intuitive knowledge of the limits or extremes; and thus maintaining a sustainable balance to enable your team’s success while pursuing your own goals with an optimistic and enjoyable spirit. It’s definitely not easy but with patience, practice, and peer support it’s doable.

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