I don’t have a formal design background. I had to learn everything the hard way through the usual methods. Diving into, or letting myself get thrown into, the deep end of the pool. Working hard to learn as much as I could whenever I could. Asking lots of questions. Admitting what I don’t know to myself and others. And just plain trying again. And then again.

This is true for the work I do as a leader as well. It’s probably true for everyone who’s put into that position. At some point all you have are hard problems to solve. There are no easy answers and some days it can even feel like you’re picking from a pile of only wrong answers. “Which wrong answer will be the best right one today?” There’s only one way to learn there and it’s always and only the hard way.

That could mean things are twice as hard if you’re a design leader in that position. “I have two things I’m always learning the hard way all the time. Great.” I don’t think that’s true though. There’s only overlap. I think it’s common to say as a design manager or leader, “Well, I’m designing a team that designs now.” And that is how I think of it.

And that means I can apply what I know from design to leading.

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