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Great Leadership Informed by Design

Exceptional Leadership by Design: How Design in Great Organizations Produces Great Leadership

ISBN: 978-1-78743-901-6, eISBN: 978-1-78743-900-9

Publication date: 17 September 2018


Traditional paradigms of leadership have celebrated decisive top-down control and analytical decision making. But times are changing. The world is becoming more connected, complex, fluid, and interdependent.

Leading people in this age requires empathy, collaboration, curiosity, and creativity. It’s more about designing elegant solutions than mandating feasible ones. It’s more about becoming optimistic beacons of change than authoritative custodians of the status quo. The leaders of tomorrow are not commanders, they are innovators; and in that, they have a natural ally in designers – the poster children of innovation.

This chapter focuses on how leadership can leverage tools and frameworks usually associated with design to innovate, solve complex problems, motivate teams, inspire people, and nurture the next generation of leaders. It discusses design methodologies – user-focused design, lean, design thinking – as potential approaches to optimizing organizational leadership. We elaborate these ideas through real-world examples.

The chapter also offers actionable tips and techniques that designers use to respond empathetically and elegantly to complex human needs, which are rooted deeply in behaviors and attitudes, governed by complex interactions, and therefore, hard to grapple through a purely analytical approach.

It debunks the myth that leaders need to be creative similar to designers to apply Design Thinking. Applying design approaches and practices to organizational leadership is not just about its leaders becoming more creative. It is definitely not about the person at the top coming up with the grand answer. It is a collaborative effort that brings people from all levels together in pursuit of a common goal.


Handa, A. and Vashisht, K. (2018), "Great Leadership Informed by Design", Elkington, R., van der Steege, M., Glick-Smith, J.L. and Breen, J.M. (Ed.) Exceptional Leadership by Design: How Design in Great Organizations Produces Great Leadership, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 7-32.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018 Atul Handa & Kanupriya Vashisht