Monday, November 25, 2013

Leader As Artist

Max DePree, the former president of Hermann Miller and author of Leadership Is an Art, says, “Leadership is an art, something to be learned over time, not simply by reading books. Leadership is more tribal than scientific, more a weaving of relationships than an amassing of information, and, in that sense, I don’t know how to pin it down in every detail.” 

Leadership, like art, is part imagination and part effort, part image and part impression. It is a skillful combining of the tangible and intangible to create something that did not exist before. And as with great art, when it comes together – when it works – almost everyone recognizes it. 

Good artists pull together seemingly disparate ideas into innovative and novel concepts. They often need a safe and structured environment to explore their own creative process. The parallel in the world of organizations could be creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment where people can express their ideas, preferences, and perspective without fear of embarrassment or ridicule.

Creativity in thinking and skill in execution are the like-minded marks of great artists and effective leaders. Effective leaders understand the difference between creativity and creating. Creativity alone is not sufficient for innovation. Beyond thinking creatively, you have to actually create something. You have to implement. You have to “ship” (Seth Godin).  Innovation requires a set of skills and a way of looking at the world that extends well beyond the creative “idea generator.” Execution is key to creating - converting creative ideas into effective change and innovation. 

To create, successful artists and leaders must develop effective working relationships with people of different perspectives, preferences, skills, and talents. Each opportunity requires a new dialogue with different possibilities, challenges, tasks, and personalities. Those people who can best manage this messiness will best understand the art of leadership.

Artists or leaders can bring new ideas into reality through the collective efforts of people working together. How different is that task whether the person is an orchestra conductor or a CEO, a choreographer or a plant manager, a sculptor or a chief information officer? Leaders are artists; and, both the intangible quality of creativity and the tangible results of creating are required to succeed in any worthwhile endeavor.  

Please share your insights and questions by posting comments below. To learn more about how two world-class artists-turned-facilitators have integrated Change Style Indicator® in their work, click on the following link:

About the author: Chris Musselwhite, EdD is president and CEO of Discovery Learning, Inc. ( 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Which competency do the best global leaders share?

In a study of the most effective global leaders, influence ranked as most important. Of twenty-one competencies, four ranked as important regardless of culture and World region:

     1) Creativity
     2) Resource allocation
     3) Risk taking and the most important
     4) Influence.

Influence becomes the single most important differentiator of success once a leader’s responsibilities shift from being leader of a single country (product line, project team, function, executive function, etc.) to leader of multiple countries.  Of course, differences exist between countries.  Influence is most important in Brazil followed by China, South Africa, Australia, the UK, USA, Canada and then India.  

The most likely explanation for the importance of influence may stem from the fact that global leaders see a 260% increase in the number of stakeholders they must deal with when they transition from leader of a single country to multiple countries.  

Compared to their less successful counterparts, the most successful global leaders spend more time with clients (especially potential clients), global peers, and government and community leaders. Interestingly, they spend less time with their employees. However, the time they do spend with their employees is strategically focused on development.

Ironically, of the twenty one competencies examined, influence is the one for which multi-country leaders are least effective with only one in four being viewed as highly effective.  So influence is the competency that matters most for global leaders while it is the one in which they are least competent.  This should be a big wakeup call for planners, designers and deliverers of leadership development for global leaders and for ‘would be’ global leaders.  

Where to start:  Assess personal influence preferences and cultural influence differences and understand the implications for leadership effectiveness.  

Source: Corporate Leadership Council Human Resources 2011 Survey

Please share your insights and questions by posting comments below. For more information on how to assess personal influence preferences, you can read about DLI's Influence Style Indicator on our website at or use our Contact Page.  

About the author: Chris Musselwhite, EdD is president and CEO of Discovery Learning, Inc.

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