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Evolution of Leadership: Design Thinking for Leaders

Do you have what it takes to be a design-thinking leader?

Leadership has long shifted towards a more collaborative approach, fostering greater teamwork, productivity, innovation, and creativity. But the fundamental qualities of effective leaders haven’t really changed. We still need leaders who have a clear vision for the organization or the team, who can effectively communicate that vision in an inspiring and memorable way, who work hard, and are committed to the goals of the organization. We still need leaders who act and lead through influence, make decisions quickly despite uncertainty, and stay on top of developments both inside the organization. It is just the working environment that has changed over time so radically that we’ve all had to adapt how we lead and do our work in order to keep pace.

But unlike the bosses of yesterday, on top of the qualities they possess, leaders of today need to be nurturing, spontaneous and empathic to employees’ needs. This is due to the evolving members of the workplace - Millennial and Generation Z employees want leaders who empower them to make choices and overcome barriers while providing adequate training and mentoring necessary to achieve great things.

Likewise, they also need to give preferential focus on meeting the needs of end-users, knowing profits will follow.

The best way to acquire these is by mastering design thinking.

What are the characteristics of a design-thinking leader?

1. Sees the world in terms of problems and products. A design-thinking leader sees products far beyond information, artifacts, activities, services, systems, and environments in order to solve specific problems.

2. Views self as a product. Design thinking leaders often view themselves as products to lead an exceptional team performance. This would mean looking at their own attitude, behavior, and outlook to be effective leaders.

3. Deeply understands the process of creative problem solving and knows how to act as a catalyst for creativity. Within the creative process, leaders should seek to be conduits, provocateurs, shepherds, and motivators.

Conduits: Leaders, with their wide array of networks, are well-positioned to connect inside and outside of the organization. Establishing and widening contacts will help design-thinking leaders in the long run.

Provocateurs: There should always be an open door for the exploration of creative problem solving and come up with more ways to frame the problem. Creative communication between and among peers shall be ensured.

Shepherds: Leaders, like shepherds of sheep, are responsible for guiding each team member, and are responsible for ensuring their continued learning, growth, success, and their wellbeing in the workplace.

Leaders also delegate tasks in a way that makes the most of each team member's strengths.

Motivators: A true design thinking leader inspires subordinates to see the significance of their work in the fulfilment of the goals of the organization and strive further to contribute more meaningfully.

1. Embraces ambiguity and seeks opportunity to use models and other forms to reduce chaos and create order. Despite the pressure, leaders should always be welcome to embrace ambiguity and chaos. Having a design attitude, and the availability of employee- and customer-centered activities, empower leaders to address these occurrences.

2. Prototype visions, not just products. Prototypes are typically used to test out products in various stages of fidelity in order to get meaningful feedback from stakeholders. Design-thinking leaders should look for ways to prototype and test out different visions for their organization. This could include things like role-playing, or writing magazine articles about the future success of the company. There are always opportunities to “prototype” a more desirable future.

What is Design Thinking?

empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test -- each of which is vital in customer experience and in making the most impactful improvements within the organization.

But at its very core, design thinking is about forging collaborations. The idea is to lay out unique perspectives from the members of the organization, and generate optimal solutions.


Do you have what it takes to be a design-thinking leader?

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