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  • The Creative and the Leader

    - Michael Levall

  • The group must be effective

    The primary function of the Project Lead is to make sure that the group is effective in its day-to-day work. As you can see on the picture below, effectiveness involves not only the Leader but also the members of the group. One could make the case that the Creative also has a responsibility as a member to ensure group effectiveness but this is not his primary function.

    Everything that the Leader does should in some way increase team effectiveness. You need a schedule so that members know what to work on, a budget so that your team doesn't run out of money before they are finished with the project and personal coaching so that the members don't suffer a mental breakdown from stress. All of these, and much more, is done to increase the effectiveness of the team.

    There are a couple of different ways of leading a team, all suited to different circumstances. I use is what West calls a facilitative style with focus on transformation (West, 2004, p. 71). This style is best suited when the task is unclear and complex while having a highly skilled and motivated team. It focuses on consulting your members for advice on how to make decisions and using charisma to transform the members' views of themselves and their work. As a Leader, you should focus on helping the members to make the decisions themselves, as long as it does not influence team effectiveness. When members asks what they should do or how to solve a problem, try to coach them into finding the solution themselves, using questions such as "How would you go about solving this problem?" and "What do you think the real problem is?"

    Both roles on the same member, why not?

    I am now going to make the case why it is a bad idea to have these two roles on the same member, these all comes from personal experience as I had both of these roles during the entire MSUL13 competition.


    When arguing about which feature to implement in the game, the two key words that are often considered are "time" and "priority". While the Leader is responsible for delivering the product on time, the Creative is responsible for making sure that the features get prioritized correctly. This will most likely lead to arguments as the feature the creative sees as important might not always be the best choice time-wise. In these arguments, it is important to have the two sides represented by different persons so that an actual discussion can take place.


    This depends on the preferences of your group. I recommend that you let the Project Lead decide on a date when an important decision needs to be made, and if the team can't come to an agreement by then the Creative has final say and must make a decision. This is derived from the focuses of the two roles. The Leader is focused on effectiveness, in order for him to be able to work toward this end he should have the right to force the team to make important decisions so that the team doesn't reach a standstill. The Creative on the other hand should be focused on the vision, and is thusly most qualified to take a decision based on what he has heard from the discussions. This might not be the case under all circumstances, as a decision might impact budget or time schedule the Leader might have to step in and prevent the Creative from taking a decision that might otherwise drive the whole team off a cliff. Preferably the Creative should always consult the Leader for input on the effects of his decision before actually making it.


    Both of the roles are time consuming, and if one person has them both there is a good chance that he will focus his attention more on one of them and partly neglect the other. This might not be the case in smaller teams, i.e. three to five, but in larger teams such as six to ten members I strongly suggest giving the roles to two different members.


    As a Leader, you will have to coach your members to be more effective in their roles. While doing this, as mentioned before, you should try to ask open questions to help the member use his own creativity and abilities to fulfill his tasks. On the other hand, as a Creative, you sometimes have to step in to correct a member that is going off track from the vision. The line between creative freedom and creative restriction can sometimes be hard to make out if you are responsible for both.

    Teams smaller than five

    In a smaller team (three to five members) you might want to put both of the roles on the same person in spite of what I have previously discussed. This is because the roles will not be so time consuming that they are not manageable by one person, and if you split the roles between two people you will have two members that are not able to completely focus on their work on the game. Remember that what I have written here are only suggestions, and you should adjust the roles and the authority of the members that have them to work for you.

    End of Part 1

    In this post I have discussed two different kinds of leadership with focus on game development in smaller teams, I have tried to shed light on the differences and aspects of Creative and Project leadership from my point of view. I hope that my experiences have been of help to you, please stay tuned for Part 2 were I will focus on the role of the Project Lead, discussing how the Leader can increase team effectiveness and what tripwires there are for new Leaders.


    West, M. A. 2004. Effective Teamwork: Practical lessons from organizational research. 2nd Ed. Leicester: The British Psychological Society, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 978-1-4051-1058-7.


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