Return to site home page


Leading the Future

As the interiors profession heads into the future, designers everywhere must develop a mindset focused around professional and social leadership.

By Barbara Marini, FASID, IDEC

As the interiors profession heads into the future, designers everywhere must develop a mindset focused around professional and social leadership.

Leadership is such an important topic today that it is nearly impossible to peruse a journal, newspaper or blog that doesn’t speak to some aspect of leadership. Colleges and universities are spending considerable resources developing leadership programs in order to prepare graduates for the challenging world that awaits.

Establishing and leading teams that have a propensity for creative thinking; applying high-level problem solving skills; and maintaining a focused, strategic and visionary approach to resolving complex issues is more important than ever.

It takes a particular mindset to lead purposefully in unpredictable times, and these challenges exist within all industries and organizations as a result of the shifting dynamics of a global economy. Whether one manages a small firm, a large business or a conglomerate, strong leadership is needed to guide decisions and set the future direction.

Companies and organizations that are positioned to succeed in the current economy and prepared for the future are that way because of leadership. Leaders who are visionary, who have high levels of integrity and who are open to new ideas are in high demand! These leaders understand collaboration and make conscientious decisions for the good of stakeholders—and with a view of the future.

Leadership is defined and measured through a variety of instruments such as the Basadur Creative Problem Solving Profile (CPSP), the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI) and the Five Factor Model (the Big Five). While each of these models evaluate and define leadership ability in different ways, the common thread among them is creativity. This unique trait has become a new focus of many leadership programs since it tends to be the “missing link” among leaders and a variable that is difficult to define.

Creative leadership is needed in the world today. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is well-positioned to contribute on a global scale to discussions regarding the built environment. As most designers will tell you, creativity is part of our DNA! PageBreak

I recognize the significance of this topic and have embarked upon a personal journey to research leadership through doctoral studies; I am also personally committed to developing professional leadership in ASID. Simply put, professional and creative leadership is critical to our future as a discipline and as an organization. We must provide the necessary tools and training for our leaders to be successful.

Designers have an intrinsic propensity for advancing in the area of leadership. We analyze and synthesize solutions to complex problems, and are able to create amazing experiences for clients and users. That being said, creativity alone is not enough to drive or address our evolving world; it must be coupled with the ability to lead effectively, and result in outcomes that drive innovation and change in a dynamic environment.

Leadership in the context of interior design requires all of us to step up and assume the roles needed to communicate the value and impact of design on the human experience at local, regional, national and global levels. Developing our leadership at multiple levels is a commitment that ASID has made to advance the profession. Demonstrating this leadership and delivering a message to the public about the role of interior designers in today’s market are imperatives that drive the ASID leadership development initiative.

We have an opportunity to harness the creativity of our members for a new model of leadership that will guide innovation for the profession, now and into the future. We are engaged in an active process of cultivating the next generation of leaders who will propel the profession forward. ASID knows that the influence of leadership from an organizational perspective is based on consistent messaging, well-trained and confident spokespeople, and the ability to move groups forward strategically. We are focused on an open-minded and conscientious leadership model that is results-oriented, collaborative, communicative and confident about the profession and opportunities ahead.

As we move forward, you will see a range of ASID programs that focus specifically on leadership development and training. This is part of the commitment we have made to our members, industry partners and other stakeholders: to provide the training needed to advance the profession and communicate the impact of interior design. Leadership training will provide opportunities to develop personal, business and collaborative skills that are transferrable and beneficial to professionals at multiple levels.

In order to communicate the value of interior design, it is critical that we frame our conversations around leadership of the profession, identify targeted areas for development and provide consistent messaging as the core of the design network. We cannot assume that leadership “just happens.” It is imperative that interior designers develop a mindset that is actively engaged in social and professional leadership to elevate our industry.


Barbara Marini, FASID, IDEC is the chair of the interior design program at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Detroit, Mich. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or, and on the web at