Leadership is under much scrutiny these days as we see our governments, businesses and institutions grapple with ongoing challenges, crises and disruption. What is clear is that the people at the top of organisations are key to how they develop and address the varied needs of those working with them. Clear-sighted leadership can inspire people through periods of change, whereas muddled thinking or bad communication can add to people’s confusion and anxiety.
Like all sectors, the creative industry has been through a period of immense change in the past few years. With this in mind, the Leaders Issue – a theme we will return to annually – brings together conversations with those who are taking the worlds of advertising and design in new and unexpected directions.
There are leaders who are running their own businesses and discovering new ways of organising their teams, and others who are a part of wider companies or academic institutions, who are trialling new forms of leadership from within.
From the world of advertising, we interview Wieden+Kennedy Portland’s new ECD team about their future plans, and Pancho Cassis, global CCO of David, speaks to us about getting the best out of his creative departments. We also take a closer look at people centring research and education in their practices, including Rama Gheerawo at the RCA, A Vibe Called Tech founder Charlene Prempeh, and educators and Synoptic Office founders Caspar Lam and YuJune Park.
Elsewhere, we speak to Molly Hawkins, creative director to Harry Styles, about how her role works, and Stephen Mai discusses shaking up the media landscape. We also sit down with multidisciplinary creative Ronan Mckenzie, Libresse’s global marketing director Tanja Grubner, Studio Nari founder Caterina Bianchini, and designer Bas van de Poel about shaping the future of their industries.
Alongside these revealing interviews, we look at some of the bigger themes influencing leadership in the creative industry today. David Droga argues the case for installing creatives in the C-Suite, Creature London opens up about the process of being acquired, and Patrick Burgoyne examines the ever-changing role of a creative director.
We also hear about the merging of technology and spirituality, the key to good leadership in a hybrid world, and how creatives should measure success. Finally, Antwaun Sargent opens up about the influence and legacy of the late creative visionary Virgil Abloh.
You will see that certain themes reappear across the conversations: a desire for a better life-work balance (and how to manage direct demands for this from younger generations), plus a recognition that creativity and ideas thrive from trust and understanding instead of constant pressure.
Together, the articles featured illustrate how the leadership skills that creatives possess, like empathy and problem-solving, have a greater part to play outside of the industry too. This is therefore not only an issue for those in the design and ad industry – all businesses would be wise to take note of the thoughts contained within.