Ask Anna: Can I be a manager and still be creative?

The shift into management is often difficult, but it holds particular concerns for those in the creative industries, who may mourn the hands-on role they once had. Here, CR’s agony aunt Anna Higgs offers advice on handling the transition

Dear Anna,

I’m a creative and have the opportunity to move into a management role, where I’ll be managing a larger creative team. I’m excited to do it but worried about how to get the best out of my team (there’s no training for this in particular) and whether I’ll miss being a hands-on creative myself. Is there a way of getting the best of both worlds?


Dear Anon,

Creative leadership is a really interesting area, both in terms of how to actually do it day to day but also, as your question suggests, how to balance being creative with the demands of management. But if you give that balance the right sort of ­focus and energy, I believe you can get the best of both worlds.

For the first part – how to get the best out of your team creatively – it’s worth noting that leading any kind of team can be demanding. You have different characters, roles and passions at play before you’ve even begun. And I say leading rather than being ‘a manager’ quite purpose­fully. Although that’s the default role title, when I think about it, I don’t feel a group of functioning adults should need a lot of management. They should know how to do their jobs and work well with their colleagues. But what it takes to get the very best out of them is much more complex and layered. That complex­ity is why great leadership needs a constant, conscious ­effort, but that effort can reap huge rewards for you and your team.