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I don’t always wear clothing, but when I do…

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How a Leaderless Team Ruled Project Runway

OK: bait and switch. I typically wear clothing. And if you know me, I doubt fashion comes to mind. But my costume-designing wife and the fashionistas in our house started watching this show. And I’ve started to like it because it parallels my work of producing copy that must be new and unique while fitting tight space, tone, accuracy and brand requirements.

Season 8 episode [whatever] featured a group exercise. This was poignant for me because when I teach professional writing at Northwestern College, I often include a group exercise. The group exercise is universally hated. For all the reasons you might expect: it’s hard to define what the group is doing together. There’s always someone who fits the slacker role. No one wants to take charge and if the work isn’t up to par, it feels like someone else’s fault.

Next time I introduce a group project, I’ll use Project Runway Season 8 Disc 2 [yes. I am a Netflixer] to set up the team task. That episode shows an outstanding example of what can happens when a leaderless team backs away from personal project management and allows each member to find their own way. Some bit of magic happened in the show that allowed each designer to do their own thing while still producing garments that seemed to belong together. It’s as if they were listening to each other at a level beyond the words used. Leaderless teams don’t always work that way. But that it worked that way once gives me hope.

In contrast, the team with the heavy-handed project manager forced every member to work down at a level beneath their abilities. The judges held that team’s feet to the fire with blistering reviews.

I am intrigued by what can happen when creative people work together. Perhaps the best leader helps their team hear and understand each other so each creator’s personal best is produced rather than some spiritless guess about what the bully micro-manager wanted.


Image credit: 4CP via thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

July 13, 2012 at 5:00 am

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