What makes an effective leader?
May 15, 2023
In the fast-paced world of UX design, outstanding leadership extends beyond technical expertise. Of course, a solid foundation is important for any structure but in this article will explore a little deeper the qualities that make quality leaders that people want to work for.
If asked, “name someone who has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on your career?” I’m certain that almost all of us could, given a moments thought, conjure up 2–3 names that answer this question adequately. These characters often come in the form of teachers, mentors, business partners or even ‘your boss’ - and their impact can be measured in endless capacities, there is not a one size fits all. We could debate which qualities effective leaders bring to their team members; confidence, belief, quality, motivation, security, direction… but if I were to paint a large brush stroke, I would say, effective leaders guide others to achieve more than they ever thought they could.
The soft skills
Patience and dedicating time to your team Effective leaders understand the value of patience in the creative process. They recognize that innovation requires time, experimentation, and iteration. By remaining patient, leaders create an environment where teams feel encouraged to explore and push boundaries, leading to breakthrough ideas and designs that resonate with users. An exceptional design leader prioritizes investing time in their team members. By making themselves available and approachable, leaders establish trust and foster open communication. Taking the time to listen, understand, and address concerns empowers individuals and strengthens their commitment to achieving collective goals.
Nurturing personal growth and championing employee development A great design leader not only focuses on the success of the project but also nurtures the growth and development of their team members. By identifying their strengths and areas for improvement, leaders provide guidance and opportunities for skill enhancement. Supporting individual growth fosters a motivated and high-performing team that continually excels. A crucial aspect of effective design leadership is a commitment to employee development. Exceptional leaders create a culture of continuous learning, offering training, mentorship, and opportunities for professional growth. By investing in their team's development, leaders empower individuals to reach their full potential, resulting in a collective success that drives the organization forward.
Cultivating human connections, a protective environment, and building ‘team spirit’ What are companies without their people? If you are truly to commit to doing your best work day-in-and-day-out in order to build a world-breaking product, it goes without saying but you better be doing it with people you like. Or at least, it’s 200x “easier” and more enjoyable if you do! Strong leaders recognise this and so foster an environment where collaboration, discussion, and camaraderie can flourish, where human connection can grow, and where knowledge can flow, all in order to bring the best out of everyone.
Leaders should foster environments that support inclusion and ownership where every member feels valued and empowered. Where responsibility is given when deserved, recognising their achievements, and conversely are lifted when workloads become too high and efforts need to be redistributed.
Empathy & Honesty
Empathy, honesty, and being a fantastic listener Empathy is a common term regularly circulated in the UX designer lexicon and for good reason. The reason we champion empathy in design is no different to the reason we apply empathy in our designers - we want to improve the experience of others. We want to solve the problems of others. As a leader, it is critical to give your full attention to your users’ (employees’) problems, build strong relationships with them, and make it clear you are on their side fighting their corner. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest with your own failings. Nothing is more comforting to a struggling team member than hearing “I’ve been there” from a senior figure. We’re all human who’ve made a tonne of mistakes - so share your experiences and your learnings, good or bad.
Adaptability and resilience
Things rarely stay the same for extended periods of time. This is true for design leaders more so than most as there role increases to touch on a wider spectrum of stakeholders, company hierarchy, and departments. Exceptional leaders are able to embrace change by being prepared to adjust their strategy and approach as needed. They are confident in their own ability to make quick decisions and suggest recommendations while simultaneously keeping an open mind to new ideas no matter where they come from. With this naturally comes the opportunity to face a series of setbacks, scrutiny and challenges. In these moments, great leaders rise to demonstrate their resilience by remaining positive and determined, never losing sight of the end goal, and inspiring and motivating their team to deliver their best everyday.
Becoming an exceptional design leader requires a great deal of personal reflection and a recalibration on the skills you focus on.
At HATCH Conference, we will be delving deeper into the requirements and next best steps to prepare for this next step in your journey. The conference day in Berlin is SOLD OUT but don’t fear: you can join us online, or sign up to the waiting list in case a conference ticket does become available at: https://www.hatchconference.com/