This is part 3 of a 3-part review of Scott Belsky's book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
- John Quincy Adams
Be the person you want to work with, lead by example. Inspire and motivate others to be the best they can be by demonstrating what’s possible. 

As a creative, you are sought after to transform people’s often-grandiose ideas into tangible realities. You then find yourself amidst a team brainstorming, hashing out ideas and collaborating on a project. Working in a group doesn’t always come naturally to us creatives, but it is often a necessary and proven part of producing successful work. You learn a lot about yourself by the roles you play in these groups, and how your ability to lead, follow and/or contribute determines you and your team’s level of productivity. The role of a leader is not one that you demand but rather a position that others who believe and trust in you give you.

Below is my review from the third section of Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality. This section discusses leadership capability and the distinguishable qualities needed to become a great leader, the ability to construct a solid team to work along side of you, and the aptitude to self-manage your entrepreneurial spirit.

1.     Through trial and error we become better leaders. You have to be the one willing to take the risk and often times graciously accept the failure. As a leader you must be able to continue without success in the eyes of others, so learn how to use it to your advantage.


2.    Develop a reward structure. There are three types of reward structures that will help you see the positives in every failure and the strength to push onward.

  • Incremental rewards keep on us on track by maintaining the momentum of the project. These small wins allow us to ignore the “can this work” questions and keep our eye on the prize. 
  • Motivational rewards keep the mood light and fun. These keep you and/or your team happy in turn maintaining the passion towards to the project.
  • Recognition rewards are often at the completion of a project but can be used to fuel healthy competition during the project. It’s important to always strive for recognition but don’t let it be your only driving force.

3.     Learn to capture the benefits of failure. Challenge yourself to have perspective by using the present situation to better a future one. Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • What external conditions may explain the failure?
  • What internal factors may have compromised your judgment?
  • Are there any positives in this unintended outcome?

4.     The “Love Conundrum.” Love both drives us and destroys us. Your original visions are often tainted by the progress so marrying an idea too early will take you on a path to perfection you’ll never find. Be open to letting your love grow into what it’s supposed to be on it’s own. (This is honestly a life lesson too)  

1.     Chemistry of a creative team. Your team’s chemistry is a reflection of your ability to find the harmonious balance between personality and skills. As a leader, it is your responsibility to engage and create engagement within your team. When choosing a team, look past technical skills and focus more on enthusiasm, passion, ability to take initiative and overall personality traits. You have to know that they can work together on a fundamental level first.

2.     Find initiators. These people are crucial in your creative pursuits. If they are behind you, their passion and ability to generate ideas is endless.

3.     The “T” Concept. Deconstructing the letter “T” into 2 parts: top horizontal line representing an individual’s breadth of experience while the vertical line represents the depth of experience. Cultivate the complimentary skill sets of each team member by finding their “vertical line.”

4.     Create a system that kills ideas. This may sound counter-productive but it’s actually the best way to work through brainstorming sessions. Skeptics that poke holes through your ideas are crucial to a creative and productive environment.

5.     Share ownership of your ideas. You should gauge the worth of an idea by how many other people are enthusiastic about it.

  •  “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it.” – President Eisenhower

6.     Trust your team’s judgment. As long as the outcome is achieved don’t micromanage how they are achieved. Trust the people you’ve chosen to work with, you’ll often be surprised by the results.

1.     Provide flexibility for productivity. Allow yourself and your team to work within their capacity.

  • When your brain is tired give it a break. Don’t force it to execute beyond its ability; you’ll end up hating what you’re doing.
  • Create a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment)
  • Remember it doesn’t matter where or what time the work is completed; it’s about the results and deadlines.

2.     Leaders should talk last. This is an interesting one as it depends on the time spent with the team. If it’s your first meeting then leaders often talk first in order to establish their role. However, if that role has already been established then leaders should allow their team to discuss their thoughts before you announce yours. This creates a healthy “input by many, decisions by few” atmosphere.

3.     Discovering self-leadership. Find your own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Hone your emotions through a personal advisory board. These select few will solicit trusted, valuable and candid feedback.
  • Avoid visionary narcissism. You are not the exception to the rule.
  • Seize opportunities wisely, but seize them. Waste time wisely.

4.     Recognize potential in ideas worth exploring. You’ll never have all the answers; all you need is the willingness to take the risk and stay afloat. The risk of trying is less than not trying at all. You may never see further than your headlights but you can make an entire trip that way.

Leadership is not about receiving all the credit or being the face of something great; it’s about developing relationships and finding a way to bring out the best of everyone you’re working with. To become a great leader, you have to be a deviant, a skeptic, an observer and an initiator, all the while being a mentor to the team you’ve assembled. Your team is a reflection of you and your capability to lead, so choose wisely.

 Happy Creating!!