The importance of good leadership for agency growth

June 25, 2023

Sustainable, consistent growth: it’s no secret that it’s what a creative agency needs to thrive in this competitive industry. But how do you get there? During my time working in creative agency operations, I’ve managed to gain a good idea of the core things required. Of course, every agency is different, but each one tends to have some key areas of similarity when it comes to driving success.

In this previous blog post, I spoke about the four key pillars that I believe an agency needs to master if they want the best chance of success. These pillars are leadership, financial management, people, and processes. I also talked about how the four pillars work best when they’re in harmony. You can read that post for more detail on the concept of the four pillars and how they work together, but today’s post will be focusing on the first one: leadership.

It may seem obvious that good leadership is vital for agency growth, but you’d be surprised at how many agencies I’ve seen that are lacking in this area. Sometimes, they don’t even realise that their leadership needs improving or that it is what’s holding them back from their goals. However, when you take a closer look at what good leadership in a creative agency actually requires, you can see how it’s often a hard balance to strike.

What does good leadership in a creative agency look like?

Every agency is unique, and so their concept of good leadership will vary. However, I believe that leadership in agencies is all about striking the right balance between all of the different parts, such as:

  • Fostering creativity and maintaining profitability. If your work isn’t creative enough, you will lose clients and become less profitable. But, if there are no processes in place but complete creative freedom, things are unlikely to get done on time, also hindering profitability. This is a very hard balance to find, but I believe that lean processes, modelled from the top, are the answer here.
  • Managing diverse teams with varying skill sets and personalities. By its nature, the creative industry attracts a huge range of people with different backgrounds, skills, and working preferences. It’s one of the best things about the industry, but can be hard to manage and keep everyone happy. This requires the ability to communicate effectively, provide guidance and direction, and offer constructive feedback that helps individuals develop and grow.
  • Meeting client expectations while maintaining quality. Clients are demanding and want you to deliver the best work, on time, and on budget. As such, quality can suffer, which may have negative effects on your agency. Good leaders need to find the right balance to keep everyone on an even keel.
  • Staying ahead of industry trends. This is often what can set you apart from the competition, so it’s important to dedicate enough time and resources to it.
  • Navigating through uncertainty and ambiguity. Like any industry, creative businesses aren’t immune to their fair share of ambiguity and challenges due to the wider world’s conditions. Excellent leaders should have strategies in place to manage this wherever possible.

So, agency leaders have a lot on their plate. This is often why truly outstanding agency leadership is hard to come across. But, there are things that leaders can implement to make the challenges of leading an agency more manageable.

How can I encourage good leadership in my creative agency?

You know that good leadership is important, but how do you actually implement it within your agency? Here are five of my most vital pieces of advice:

Encourage collaboration

A collaborative environment should be the backbone of any creative agency. After all, most projects involve different people with all sorts of varied skills working together for a common goal. If the environment does not encourage collaboration, things can quickly become difficult, take longer, and produce an undesirable outcome.

If team members are encouraged to share their ideas without judgement and work together to solve problems, innovation and creativity will be promoted. And what good is a creative agency without those?

Set clear goals

Setting clear goals is a great way to help reduce confusion, which can be a big time waster and therefore affect profitability. However, setting the goals themselves is only half of the way there. You should also communicate them clearly to the entire team, as well as any expectations for the team to fulfil around them. This will help everyone stay on track and work towards a common objective. After all, goals are no good if nobody knows about them!

Invest in professional development

Investing in programmes to help your team improve their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technology is never a waste of funds. Not only will this help your agency stay ahead of trends and therefore competitors, it also gives your team an added incentive to stay and build their careers with you. In an industry where staff retention is tricky, this is something that any good leader should be willing to put resources behind.

Provide regular feedback

This is another tip for leadership that will aid in your staff retention. Providing regular feedback to your team helps them to improve and grow, therefore producing better work. And, better work can lead to greater profitability and higher regard within the industry, which is always useful for sustainable growth. Positive feedback can be especially motivating and inspiring, but if your team knows that feedback is regularly provided to them, they are more likely to feel valued and an integral part of the agency’s success.

Lead by example

As a leader, you should be willing to model the behaviour that you want to see in your team. This means being accountable, transparent, and supportive, not hiding away and leaving the hard tasks to your managers. Leading by example creates a positive and productive work environment, which is another way to improve staff retention as well as profitability and growth.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Ensuring you have the best possible leadership for your agency can be a long process. There are all kinds of factors involved, and of course it doesn’t act in a vacuum either. If you have good leadership but nothing else in place, your agency won’t have the best chance of success. That’s where the cohesion between the four pillars comes in, as they cover all of the major bases for sustainable agency growth.

If you’re looking to take your agency to the next level, I can help by equipping you with a solid strategy based on your unique challenges. To find out more about where your agency currently stands and what you can do to improve growth, profitability, and more, you can take my free assessment by clicking here. It will deliver you personalised reccomendations for improvement, on topics such as leadership and the rest of the four key pillars mentioned in this blog.

Let’s work together to grow your agency.

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