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The Cat Herder: The Role and Function of the Agency Creative Director
Unformatted Document Text:  THE  CAT  HERDER     26   current system of having people rise through the ranks based on creative talent works to ensure that creative directors are themselves experts in creativity. However, not all of the roles of the creative director are served by the current system. For example, the creative leadership literature suggests that effective leaders must have adept social skills, especially persuasion skills, since a major component of creative leadership is promoting and selling in risky or innovative ideas to constituents such as upper management and clients (Mumford et al. 2002; Dudeck & Hall 1991). The findings from this study suggest these skills of persuasion are considered a vital component of the creative director’s role in serving as a champion of creative teams. In this role, the creative director serves as a liaison between creative teams and others in the agency, a protector of creative teams, and a salesman of creative ideas both internally and to clients. While social skills are useful for lower-level creatives who must sell in work to creative directors, the importance of social skills is greatly expanded in the role of the creative director. Creatives accustomed to being protected must now serve as the liaison between the creative department and other constituencies. It could be interesting to examine whether agency management is aware of this phenomenon and consciously promotes individuals with better social skills. The leadership literature finds that effective creative leaders are also experts in planning and sense making, helping creative subordinates to make sense of novel and ill- defined problems (Mumford et al. 2002; Keller 1989). This is similar to the finding in this study of the role of the creative director as brand steward. In this role, the creative director plays a role in ensuring the strategy is workable for creative teams before creative briefings. Much of this involves thinking through the creative problem at a deeper level, sometimes even by generating initial ideas, to ensure it is on strategy for the brand and provides a clear

Authors: Mallia, Karen., Windels, Kasey. and Broyles, Sheri.
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current system of having people rise through the ranks based on creative talent works to 
ensure that creative directors are themselves experts in creativity. However, not all of the 
roles of the creative director are served by the current system. For example, the creative 
leadership literature suggests that effective leaders must have adept social skills, especially 
persuasion skills, since a major component of creative leadership is promoting and selling in 
risky or innovative ideas to constituents such as upper management and clients (Mumford et 
al. 2002; Dudeck & Hall 1991). The findings from this study suggest these skills of 
persuasion are considered a vital component of the creative director’s role in serving as a 
champion of creative teams. In this role, the creative director serves as a liaison between 
creative teams and others in the agency, a protector of creative teams, and a salesman of 
creative ideas both internally and to clients. While social skills are useful for lower-level 
creatives who must sell in work to creative directors, the importance of social skills is greatly 
expanded in the role of the creative director. Creatives accustomed to being protected must 
now serve as the liaison between the creative department and other constituencies. It could be 
interesting to examine whether agency management is aware of this phenomenon and 
consciously promotes individuals with better social skills.  
The leadership literature finds that effective creative leaders are also experts in 
planning and sense making, helping creative subordinates to make sense of novel and ill-
defined problems (Mumford et al. 2002; Keller 1989). This is similar to the finding in this 
study of the role of the creative director as brand steward. In this role, the creative director 
plays a role in ensuring the strategy is workable for creative teams before creative briefings. 
Much of this involves thinking through the creative problem at a deeper level, sometimes 
even by generating initial ideas, to ensure it is on strategy for the brand and provides a clear 

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