Okay, so alot of us who run organizations, or manage teams, or have staff direct reports, are leading those who consider themselves to be ARTISTS of some sort. Whether it's musicians, or designers, or writers, or entertainers, or worship leaders, or those who sketch/paint/draw, I'm going to lump them all together for the sake of this conversation and my thoughts on how to best lead them.
Disclaimer: we are ALL artists. In regards that we all are called to create things of excellence. Some of us are way more "Artistic" at our core than others. That is who I'm talking about here. You know who they are on your team. Guaranteed.
I'm also VERY INTERESTED to hear from you on how you best lead/manage artists. Please comment below and share your thoughts.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Start with reality. Artists are different. Not in bad weird way. But in a great weird way. So just begin with this, and it will help tremendously.
2. Lead, don't manage. Share vision, inspire, and let them loose. Managing an artist type like you would an accountant, or a project manager, or a typical hard charging type A, is not a good idea.
3. Be very specific on areas that most think are ambiguous. Most leaders think that because artists are spontaneous and spatial in their thinking, that they don't want specifics. So alot of leaders will be totally ambiguous in their interactions with artists. But just the opposite. Most artists need and desire very clear, focused and specific direction. They don't mind boundaries; in fact, they welcome them (more insight on this from my friend Tyler Reagin here).
4. Give them room to dream. This might mean they need to spend an afternoon at a coffee shop or in the park or at the lake. Let them do that.
5. Include them in the process. If you simply tell them what you want once you and everyone else have decided, you'll probably get it. But including them in the creative process will create more buy in and probably a better outcome.
6. Allow them to decorate and make their area "their own." Their office or cube or space needs to reflect who they are. Otherwise, finding inspiration could be tough in the office.
7. Release them into their areas of greatest strength. Don't burden a great artist with tasks and responsibilities outside their strengths. If it's a money thing, pay them less but let them do what they are great at. Most artists care way more about doing their "art" anyway.
8. Aggregate artists in "pairs" and team lead them. I like to always have at least two artists in a meeting, on a team, working on a project, sitting together, and ultimately working together. It gives them more energy and allows them to vent to each other. Also, if you have personality conflicts with artists on your team, then "team" lead them. Don't take it personal, but figure out the best way to release them and inspire them. It might be that you are not the best person to do that, and it's okay that someone else on your team is.