The Fire Starter and the Brand Steward: An Examination of Successful Leadership Traits for the Advertising-Agency Creative Director

Karen L. Mallia

University of South Carolina

Kasey Windels

Louisiana State University

Sheri J. Broyles

University of North Texas

Management slant

  • Three primary types of skills were demonstrated by successful creative directors: creative expertise, strategy expertise, and soft skills (relational and inter-personal communication skills).
  • Most successful creative directors are charismatic and provide inspiration as they motivate and guide, sell creative work, and build the culture of the creative department.
  • The creative director must be able to visualize ideas in raw form as well as provide intellectual stimulation that encourages others to see creative problems in a new light.
  • Copywriters and art directors—even successful ones—are ill-prepared to be leaders, which makes it important for agencies to select and train creative directors for leadership.