What Managers Can Learn From Creative Leaders

At Fortress, we have a range of creative teams contributing on all of our projects. These teams, with their unique, creative skill-sets also require a leadership style that fosters growth and creativity rather than simply management. We have a highly collaborative and learning-friendly environment that runs the gamut from interns to industry experts.

Each team, whether it’s sales, design, web development, marketing, or copywriting has its own leaders and different creative elements. But, we all work together to produce a final product and a satisfied client. As new people join our team, we have realized that everyone has something to learn and something to teach. Because of this, we have all taken on a leadership role at one time or another. But, a leader of a creative team must approach management with a non-traditional attitude. By incorporating some of the tactics creative leaders use, any manager will be able to foster a more productive and communicative environment within their own team.


“Coming from a big corporate background with multiple companies, I got to see what I liked and disliked as far as management styles go. I was then able to craft a company culture around that vision where everyone’s input is valued and everyone is a part of the team with a greater goal. This basic concept helped boost creativity immediately. We even have one of our Fortress Foundations, which is a list of the values that we stand by, that says to think outside of the box and that wild ideas are always welcome.”

Joel Mathew, Fortress President 


When evaluating your own leadership, ask, “Am I acting like a boss or a captain?” You are still a part of a team and leading is not the only hat you wear. The term “boss” can evoke somewhat dictatorial images – controlling, delegating, and not well-liked. To effectively lead a team, leaders need to place themselves at the center rather than above everyone else.

All channels of communication can lead back to you and, ultimately, you are making the team function. But, everyone needs equal access to you and to be on a level playing field when it comes to idea generation and proposal. The newest team member could have the best idea for a new project but, if your team is organized using a top-down approach, their idea may never be heard.

Traditional managerial styles at larger corporations are often top down, limiting communication among the different “levels” of the hierarchy. It is important to remember that just because one has risen through the ranks and earned a title, their ideas aren’t necessarily more valuable than other team members. Veteran employees in an industry will be able to generate ideas based on previous experiences, but newer team members are also likely to supply valid ideas based on research and personal experiences. Brainstorming sessions where everyone’s voice is heard will allow fresh, new ideas to add to the old standbys.

At Fortress, we tell everyone that we want to learn from them, not just have them learn from us, which helps create new ideas that are valued by all. For a business to succeed, every voice must be heard. That means listening to every member and giving all ideas equal consideration before landing on the one that is right for the project.


“Design is a subject where there is always more than one right solution to a problem. It’s simply about finding which solution is the best one. As soon as one person thinks they have all the answers it becomes a toxic and limiting creative environment which will likely cause ideas to become stagnant.”

Aubin Dyer, Lead Graphic Designer


As leaders, our main task is to set an example of how to do the job efficiently and effectively while trusting that our team members can handle the work that is given to them. While leaders need to act as part of the team, you are still responsible for ensuring that each project is completed before the deadline. So, offer timely praise and constructive feedback. This is especially important on highly creative teams, like graphic design or writing that depend on client feedback and multiple rounds of revision. Establishing timelines, guidelines, and boundaries that allow space for creativity, while also fitting into a professional schedule, will help keep your team on task.

For creative leaders, this takes the managerial job description to a new level. Ensuring that we are organized enough to assign work with a long enough timeline can be demanding. But, when a team is given a longer timeline, they may begin to produce higher quality work that leaves them feeling more satisfied. In turn, this will keep everyone motivated to continue producing content of the highest degree. Satisfaction in their own work can inspire employees in any industry to be more productive and inspired with each new project.


“It is my firm belief that a team will run more efficiently and create the highest level of work if they have a personal relationship with other team members. I always take the time to get to know each individual on my team on a personal level, their likes, dislikes, family, and environment preferences. It allows a trust to be formed that goes beyond being coworkers. They trust you to lead them, trust you to make creative decisions, and trust your constructive criticism.”

Linda Hanlon, Digital Project Manager


With the center-out approach to leadership, leaders won’t need to be involved in every aspect of every project. We must encourage collaboration that doesn’t involve us. This will give teams more room for creativity and keep them from feeling stifled by authority. It also will show that you trust them to get the job done right — maybe even better than you could.

Leadership is a learning process. Be open to learning new things from your team. Regularly asking for feedback and cultivating an environment in which your team feels comfortable giving honest feedback will help you improve every day. And ultimately, make the workplace the best that it can be. So, lead by letting creativity flourish and being a team player, and you will start to see a more productive and inspired team.

The Benefits of Millennials in the Workplace

It is probably truer than not, that you or people you work with have heard of the stigmas that are tied to millennials. This could directly affect how likely employers are to hire millennials for their company. But, not all that you hear about millennials is true. In fact, there are many benefits to having millennials work for or with you. At Fortress, many of our team members fall in the millennial category and we’ve gotten to teach and learn from them on a day to day basis. Since Fortress is in the technology world, incorporating millennials to our staff isn’t just a corporate initiative, it is a necessity. If you are unsure of which side to take on the matter, here are some benefits of millennials in the workplace that might change your mind.


They are taking over the workforce

As the years pass, the millennial age demographic is rising and with it comes the amount of age-appropriate millennials in the workforce. By the year 2020, millennials will make up 46% of the workforce in the United States. That is almost half of the working population. As each year passes, having to hire millennials is inevitable.

Fortress Feedback:

Nick (Marketing) Age: 22

Q: What should the workforce take into consideration as far as how it will change with the emerging millennial workforce?

A: “I think it’s important for people to realize that the earliest millennials are now starting their own businesses and hiring other millennials as employees. Millennials aren’t just creeping into the workforce, they are overtaking it. Also, older generations should be eager to hire millennials as they bring innovative and fresh ideas to the workplace. Steve Jobs once said, “We don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”. I think millennials are eager to change the old ways of doing things and they will make the workforce much more competitive.”



They are actually hard workers

Despite labels that describe them as “lazy” or “unmotivated”, statistics show that millennials are actually hard workers and want to build meaningful careers. As many as 30% of millennials would prefer a job that is considered meaningful over one that isn’t. If that doesn’t change your mind, a staggering 52% feel that job opportunities that allow them to progress and advance their career are more appealing during job searches than a job where they can surf Facebook all day. This shows that millennials are ambitious, willing to work hard and put in the effort that is needed to progress and make a meaningful career for themselves.

Fortress Feedback

Ryan (Business Development) Age: 25

Q: How does it make you feel when the older generation calls millennials “lazy” workers? Is there anything you try to do on a day to day basis to prove them different?

A: “I feel like they are misinformed. We work as hard as we can. I think that the times have just changed and priorities shift. Education for millennials became more of a priority than getting into the workforce, right away. But, I do believe that millennial’s work just as hard as any generation.”


They are the tech generation

The millennial generation grew up during the strongest period of technological advancement in history. They had access to all the newest technology and adopted it immediately. Technology is integrated into almost every area of a millennial’s life. This means they are more innovative, faster learners, and more up to date with most, if not all, new tech advancements and trends. This allows them to be assets in the digital world and makes them an asset as your company enters this evolving, online world. Hiring Millennials allows your business to be sure that it will be up to date and in good hands where technology is a pivotal part of your day-to-day.

Fortress Feedback:

Navya (Web Development) Age: 24

Q: What do you think when people say that we are the most technologically advanced generation there has ever been?

A: “I don’t feel like we are even advanced as we can be. I think that we have so much we still have to learn and generations will only keep growing in advancement. But, our generation has had the opportunity to grow up with technology and allows us to beat that “generation gap” that the older generations might have with technology that seems so familiar and easy to us.”


They are more educated

Believe it or not, millennials might be seen as lazy since they haven’t entered the workforce as early in age as older generations. But, that is because they are taking the time to get an education. Millennials are on their way to becoming the most educated generation in the United States. On average, millennial women are 36% more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than their grandparent’s generation who sat at 9%. And millennial men are no different as 29% of them hold at least a bachelor’s degree while only 15% of their grandfathers might. This shows that millennials are taking initiative to go on to secondary education before starting their careers and are on their way to holding the title of “most educated generation.”

Fortress Feedback:

Lucy (Copywriter) Age: 21

Q: What do you think about the number of millennials that now have degrees, specifically the spike in female education? And, how do you feel that the high amount of educated workers will affect the workforce?

A: “I think it’s making education more of a requirement and evening the playing field. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get into a professional company and rise up the ranks without at least a bachelor’s degree. The amount of educated women allows men and women to look the same on paper, once again evening the playing field. I also believe a college education helps millennials be better workers. The college workload, for any major, is inherently difficult and time-consuming. So, if you can make it through a four-year degree you know what it takes to get things done on time and are good at prioritizing which translates into the workplace making you a harder and more time-efficient worker.”


They are the accepting generation

Today, it is not uncommon to hear of new social reforms that allow all members of society to feel accepted. This includes, but is not limited to: race, sex, gender, or political views. Millennials are more likely than older generations to be accepting of social change and reform. This could potentially allow the workplace to have a cohesive and accepting atmosphere.

Fortress Feedback:

Carlos (Web Design) Age: 23

Q: In your experience how does the workforce atmosphere change depending on where you work? This could be anything from race to age difference and everything in between.

A: “I think having diverse co-workers and learning different cultures adds a fun aspect to a job. But, also it’s nice being able to be yourself and not have to meet some sort of expectation for different “groups” that are meant to divide us. I haven’t ever had to experience any sort of separation from my coworkers because I have mainly worked with millennials. I feel like this comfort allows us to work happier and more efficiently. I would never want to work for a company that thinks otherwise.”


This only includes some of the benefits that could come with millennials in the workplace. In our experience, millennials have been a great asset to the team and have generally shown the opposite of the stigma that society typically places on them. Generations are changing and so is the workplace, but we believe that the emergence of millennial workers will only add to the value of the veteran workforce.



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