When it comes to leading people, one size doesn’t fit all. Providing leadership to especially creative people, it takes a certain kind of leadership in order to strike a good balance between giving almost no structure and giving too much structure which allows almost no creativity. Ron Edmondson shares some helpful ideas on how to achieve that sweet spot in you leadership of creatives.

Originally published by Ron Edmondson

There are some lessons we only learn the hard way. One of them for me has been ways I help creative people on our teams flourish.

I used to think when leading creatives, the key was to free them to create. Therefore, I gave huge blank slates, allowed people to dream, and gave them very few parameters of what I was thinking. I wanted them to come up with their “best” work – the most creative way.

I’ve learned – the hard way – freedom alone for a creative can spell disaster. The fact is that without some direction to creative people nothing gets accomplished and no one is happy.

Please understand. I’m not a basher of creatives.

I am actually a creative myself. I’m not the artistic creative type, but an idea creative. I have millions of ideas. (And a few of them turn out to be good ones.)

This principle is true for me also. I used to think I wanted and needed to be led with no boundaries. I was wrong. It’s not a good recipe for me.

I’ve learned the tips I’m about to share the hard way by attempting to lead creatives – and attempting to lead myself.

Creatives don’t need freedom – or at least freedom alone – they need more than that.

Here are 3 ways to help creative people flourish:

Give clear lines of direction.

Give them a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Help them see what a win would look like to you. Help them draw a box around certain end goals or objectives.

The clearer you can be of what you are looking to do the more creative they can be.

Grant the freedom to draw within the lines.

Here’s the freedom creatives love. Once the end product is defined, creatives like limited micromanagement and maximum empowerment. They want the freedom to fail and the freedom to dream.

Creative people will flourish within broad but defined boundaries.

Provide accountability along the way.

Creative people need someone to check in with them periodically. They like to be motivated and encouraged. Let them know they are making progress and that they are doing good work. But also keep them challenged to meet deadlines and complete projects.

Without any lines or accountability creative people don’t flourish – they flounder. Things aren’t creative. They are messy.

Creatives love freedom but it works best sandwiched between clarity and structure.

When those 3 are combined – lines, freedom and accountability – stuff gets done and everyone is happy.

Actually I should clarify that mostly everyone is happy. If everyone is happy someone’s not leading – creatives or otherwise.