The Art of Leadership

When you go to an art museum, what are you hoping to see? If you’re like me, you go to see the creativity and beauty that results from the vision of a master—someone who is able to see the world in a unique way and to express that vision to others. On the other hand, while priceless if painted for you, the paint-by-number drawing of a 5-year-old usually isn’t deemed museum quality.

The journey of effective leaders is not unlike that of artists who are gradually able to add more colors to their palate and refined techniques to their repertoire.  As leaders develop over time, a similar progression occurs.  See if the following leadership truths match your experience:

  • Beginning in our school-age years, our paint-by-number perspective limits the number of colors and techniques we have available. We start by learning the rules and are driven by rewards and punishments that come from living ‘within the lines.’  We might have even thought, “Good leaders follow the rules.”
  • As we mature, we become more like photographers who replicate what we see around us, allowing these “outside circumstances” to shape our view of who we are.  Keeping our circumstances in balance made us feel things were working well. Think back to college days or early career when we probably thought, “Good leaders keep harmony.”
  • Just like accomplished artists are able to create original works that look more and more like the real thing, leaders who have a maturing vision of who they are and where they are going start to become more effective and influential.  Through gaining perspective, these leaders become artists in their field.  We might think, “Great leaders know who they are.”
  • Like master artists, leaders at the highest level are able to bring together the entirety of their experiences to inspire those around them.  By seizing growth in the midst of challenge, their authenticity and vision are expressed. They are able to create complex, intricate and beautiful works of leadership art where others can’t.  It could be said that, “Great leaders lead from someplace versus to someplace.”

Which type of leadership art do you most appreciate?
How are you developing your art?