9 things a design leader does

If you're a leader of design in some capacity here is the advice I was given that might resonate with you.

Who Made Who

I've been fortunate enough to have been graced by some very cool people. Each a different personality with very different approaches to leadership. Then I've met lots of supremely talented individuals who don't lead, who don't want to but do eloquently spell out what they expect from a good leader.

What is important to realise is that without leaders organisations wouldn't prosper and without people there would be nobody to lead, we are first and foremost a team, a family, a collection of people moving toward a unified vision.

Nurture talent

Talent needs to be nurtured in order to realise it's potential. Invest in your people and they will reward you for your belief in them.

Let people make mistakes

People make mistakes, it's a fact of life. Focus on turning those mistakes into positive learning experiences. Be peaceful, be candid and reflective when approaching things that have gone wrong.

A good leader will not fall foul of the false attribution errors others so often make. They will prod and poke a problem until the underlying issues are extracted then there they can tackle the real fires.

Set a vision

Simon Sinek writes in Start With Why about a man who is breaking is back building walls. He is unhappy, he is fed-up, he would quickly move onto the next job should it arrive. Then he tells the tale of a second man doing the same work, but this time his response is reversed. All the man's hard work is not to build a wall but build a cathedral and he is proud and dedicated to completing it.

If you set the vision, people know why they are here. Those that fully buy into it are your enablers. You need these people to drive the team forward towards success.

Empower your team

Once you've set a vision you have to equip your team. That doesn't just mean with tools, but with ways of working, disciplined freedom and emotional intelligence to understand how they want to succeed.

Be genuine

Be genuine, honest and faithful to your team. Be open and candid with them about your challenges as well as theirs. It helps humanise you, make you more approachable rather than 'the boss'. People shouldn't be afraid to upset you, because sometimes love can be tough.

Be the flag bearer

It's vital you can speak to your stakeholders, you represent all the hard hours of labour put in by your team, their thoughts, their feelings. It is up to you to communicate what the team needs in a language that your stakeholders understand.


You can't be that flag bearer if you hadn't first listened and understood intimately the challenges faced by the people in your team.

Be democractic

Let your team decide what direction to take, what stack to use, what colour to pick. All in all, you as a leader have a vision and you entrust and empower your people to work towards that vision, they are the experts, they are the people with the time to focus on the problems.

Create a psychological safe space

Your people need to be free from anxiety, street and politics. In order to maximise the work done you need to find ways to reduce their exposure to the shit storms around you. Ryan Freitas said it best in his Mind the Product talk about working in the age of distrust.

Good read

My old product leader Brendan Sweeney ask his team to read this book and...

Random Quote

Never memorize something you can look up

Albert Einstein

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