The 3 Principles Of Design Leadership

When I first took office at wREGA in 2012, there was an insurmountable amount of work that needs to be done in order to achieve the vision that we created with the committee. I asked myself the 80/20 rule: if there is 1 thing that we do and do well enough, that can impact 80% of the rest of the work that needs doing, what would it be?

John Maeda is one of many designers whose ideas I can relate to when talking about design leadership. John is a designer and a computer scientist who wrote a book called Redesigning Leadership. In 2008, when he was tapped to be president of the Rhode Island School of Design, he had to learn how to be a leader quickly from a tenured professor into the head of the organization. In the book, he shared that the best way for a leader to leverage the collective power of a team is to reveal his or her own humanity.

How do you do that? How do you reveal your own humanity?

From my experience, this comes in knowing who you are. It comes from answering the question:

-who are you?

-What is it that you are up to?

-What are you achieving?

-Who are you?

One of the most profound and powerful principles is to serve. This can mean to serve others or to serve a cause bigger than yourself. Often times in life we prefer to serve ourselves than others. This is the trap of being human. Operating from the ‘who you are’ is to serve others opens up possibilities. It is out of this generosity where magic happens. It is said that human beings are wired and designed to make a positive impact to another human being, in other words, to make another person’s life better or happy.

The second principle is context decides content. Context decides content is not about being positive or positive thinking. It’s beyond that. The right context gives you the right actions. An empowering context gives you empowering actions. If the glass that you see in the picture is square instead of circular in shape, the water that you pour in will be square in shape. The glass is the context. The water is the content. Change the context and the content changes with it. You and I can create an empowering context at any moment, at any place, at any time.

The third principle is integrity. By integrity I do not mean being morally good. I subscribe to the view that Integrity is abouthonoring your word.

These 3 principles are not principles that one agrees with. They’re not principles that one believes in. These principles are about practicing them, every day.

Practice, practice, practice.