Leadership to Elevate Design at Scale: Balancing Conflicting Imperatives

by Gerda Gemser, Giulia Calabretta, and Eric Quint

Leadership to Elevate Design at Scale: Balancing Conflicting Imperatives

Image Credit | Google Deepmind

A paradox perspective uncovers major challenges design leaders face when leading teams inside large organizations.


Little is known about how design leaders foster design excellence “at scale” within large organizations. To bridge this gap, this article reports on interviews with 59 senior design leaders. Using a paradox perspective to frame the findings uncovers major challenges when leading design teams inside large organizations. It also identifies five pairs of opposing leadership behaviors that address these tensions and balance the overarching paradox of integrating design into the fabric of an organization while maintaining its distinctive character: being transformative yet affirmative; being directive yet accommodating; being proactive yet responsive; being intuitive yet systematic; and being holistic yet specific.

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California Management Review

Berkeley-Haas's Premier Management Journal

Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

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