Once you’ve got your team, how does creative leadership ensure that the team performs well? The short answer is that the leader needs to provide a solid start, a mission, and a home.
First of all, creative leadership aims to give team members a sense of privilege. It must be clear to them that they are on an important mission and that they have been selected carefully. Aim for them to feel like a sports team playing the World Cup final – an elite team that now has the unique chance to write history. There is no internal competition; each team member realizes the team is dangerously small and can only win when everyone fully supports each other. To foster the sense of privilege, one can organize a public celebratory kick-off or announcement.
A solid start would include a period in which the team members get to know each other. Creative leadership should encourage them to spend time on sharing background, strengths and weaknesses, and their passion around the topic. Create a foundation that respects and understands each other even when it gets tough.
Each of the team members should be able to independently articulate the team’s mission and have a personal buy-in to its importance and urgency. Creative leadership means providing this narrative and checking if the team members are able and willing to tell this same story themselves. It is an illuminating (or potentially sobering) experience to ask the team, after having worked together a few weeks on the project, to describe the team’s objectives in his or her own words.
The team needs a home. The creative team draws strength and inspiration from its location. Examples of this include the start-up garage and the high-security research bunker. The location has a temporary feel to reflect that the team is conducting a project with an end. The location is unique and in sync with the uniqueness of the endeavor. Creative leadership means understanding the importance of the context the team will operate in. The location will be used literally as a home, where the team eats and, when necessary, even sleeps.