“Wait, you’re an intern?”
Steve said, over his shoulder. I was doing that rude thing (I didn’t know, promise) of standing over someone while they worked. Up until this point, I had been leading this project for weeks and my title or lack of experience hadn’t come up. Maybe going grey in my 20s had some advantages? I felt a bit like an imposter when I replied “yes…?” He paused, said “…that’s cool”—and we got back to work. I’ve used this story when mentoring and teaching young creatives as a classic ‘fake it til’ you make it’ lesson. But, it’s more than that. For me, it speaks for my natural instinct to lead. ‘Instinct’ is an important word choice. The actual ability to lead took a while to figure out, and I’ve got a ton left to learn. I know that leading doesn’t mean taking charge, but taking responsibility. And when you want someone to do the best work of their career, tell them that. Tell them you know they can. And tell them it’s your job to help them, by removing obstacles, providing clarity—so that they can find their creative voice. I know what I’m capable of. But what really excites me is helping others find out what they’re capable of.
After years of creating cutting edge digital experiences, I’ve learned so much—but one thing stands out—when you lead with empathy, kindness and trust, it brings out the incredible creative potential in everyone.