Leaders and Artists: More in Common Than You Think
Creating art has a lot in common with authentic leadership. This article very slightly delves into how two deep themes display many of the same features.
To begin with, the path to true leadership is a journey that begins with understanding who you really are. Ethical leadership of others requires that you first understand your own values and perspectives, your own vision, your own mission in life. When creating art, to ultimately produce quality work with meaning, a similar journey must be undertaken. You must know yourself: your own values and perspectives, vision and mission to ensure that the art you are producing is grounded in authenticity and that you are seeking the truth, whatever that means to you. In visual arts like painting, are you simply copying a scene from nature or how someone appears to you, or are you capturing light, shadow, color, texture, and value to express meaning beyond superficial appearance? ? In music, are you repeating someone’s song to sound like them or are you finding your voice and bringing out the emotion from deep within, connecting with your listeners?
Developing leadership qualities takes time, in years instead of weeks. Some believe, as in most tribal communities, that a leader is born. I am from the school of leadership that believes that you can make a leader who is born with certain inherent qualities. This is not the fashionable leadership of the military or corporate world known as headquarters. In this way, a person exhibits certain managerial skills such as having the ability to take initiative. Then they are transferred to more and more responsible positions until they are at the head of any group. From my point of view, they have become a strong manager, but not a leader as discussed here. A leader spends many years learning the craft of management, a set of skills that allows them to achieve goals and objectives by coordinating a team of people and supervising their production. It helps them manage their time, learn new skills, relate to people, etc. to be productive. A leader, on the other hand, has a vision and ethically moves people forward to see and pursue that vision for the greater good. This is what we would expect to see in elected officials, but rarely do.
An artist, after mastering any required trade in his field, must elevate the craft and go beyond truth by having a vision and through his work engage viewers/listeners to see and understand that vision. Just as a leader engages the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of his followers and purposefully guides them toward the fulfillment of his vision, so the artist, through a series of thoughtful methods, moves viewers/listeners to begin a share the same vision in the mind of that artist.
A question that people learning about authentic leadership sometimes face is this: Do you consider Hitler a leader? The answer is no. Authentic leadership cannot exist without an ethical foundation.
So whether you are a leader or an artist, many of the same qualities can emerge during this journey. The ultimate goal will surely be different, but the rules of engagement, orchestration, and passion of the quest can be very closely related.