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. ( 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow by Email