Design Leadership Isn’t A Title: How To Drive Business Impact As An Individual Contributor

Regardless of your role or title, you can drive large customers and business impact.

I write a lot about design leadership and management, but I also get questions about how to have impact as an individual contributor. While being an IC is different when it comes to your scope and focus, you can drive impact no matter your role.

Here’s how you do it:

1: Lead by example.

You are your actions.

How you show up every day shapes the environment, your partnerships, your reputation, the culture, and the opportunities that will present themselves. Every interaction. Every meeting.

Every moment is an opportunity to help shape the culture you want to be part of.

2: Align to shared outcomes and metrics with partners and stakeholders.

Before you start working, make sure you have a shared understanding of where you’re trying to go.

Focus on moving metrics that matter. Connect your work and rational to creating impact for customers and the business.

I’m a big fan of the the Kellogg Logic Model — this great Intercom article goes even deeper. And this dscout article breaks down how to create a brag sheet that connects research to impact.

3: Be a dot connector.

Identify work that cuts across teams and domains and bring people together to think more holistically about the work.

As a designer, you will naturally see how things are interconnected and be able to spot when experiences are being fragmented internally. Don’t ship your org chart. Bring teams together that should be working closely, foster the cross-pollination of ideas and patterns.

Be the one who connects things to make them stronger — your experiences will be better because of it.

4: Share your expertise.

You have a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and even when you’re first starting out you can share what you’ve learned and the journey you’re on.

Being able to share your perspective, expertise, and experience is a gift for others. Imagine how awesome it would have been if someone who was an expert at figma auto layout shared their knowledge with you when you first started and accelerated your learning.

Don’t underestimate the learnings you have to share with others — give back to the people that are a month or years behind you.

5: Volunteer for task forces, cross-divisional efforts, and strategic programs.

Let people know that you want to be considered when high visibility strategic initiatives spin up.

Often times, these programs catch fire quickly and team members need to be pulled from across the company. It’s an opportunity for visibility, but also an opportunity for you to demonstrate outsized impact. This is especially great if the program gives you the chance to build or hone a skill that you don’t get to flex much in your current work.

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Rachel Kobe

Rachel Kobe

I love shaping product cultures that connect people and make technology more human. SVP + Global Head of Design at Expedia Group. Prev. BofA, Amazon, + Samsung