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May 04, 2018 Friday 02:36:31 PM IST

Every Leader Is an Artist

Leadership Instincts

The connection between leadership and art has been made many times over, usually as a way to single out certain properties of the arts that carry over to leadership, such as a jazz musician’s ability to create through improvisation. Leadership is an actual art, not a metaphorical one.

The same attributes that distinguish great from mediocre artists distinguish exceptional leaders from their ordinary counterparts. The best leaders and artists give us perspective on our social condition (good or bad) and greater appreciation of our world, ourselves, and our choices. Moreover, they challenge, excite, comfort, and motivate. They bring us closer together by providing a forum for shared experiences and by forging a sense of community. Leadership and art both animate social encounters. They can change our lives in ways that are as invigorating and real as being hit by a wave.

All have their strengths and stand out in unique ways. Leadership deficits become apparent when a person resembles a leadership caricature: when they possess only a couple of criteria to the exclusion of all others. 

For example, there are the humanistic types who never miss a birthday, who sponsor team dinners at the house, who go out of their way to make the workplace pleasurable, enriching, and fun. There are the traditionalists who only do what is prescribed by “the book” and would never contemplate deviating from what a businessperson is supposed to wear, say, or do. 


There are the skilled and bureaucratic technicians who manage numbers and sheets of paper, and who attempt to orchestrate every conceivable employee behavior through a carefully planned and rigid set of rules, compensation designs, policies, and organizational structures. There are the wildly imaginative but non-directive shape-shifters who hop from one idea and initiative to the next, dragging befuddled employees along in their wake. Great leaders are immensely more complex.

(Source: Harvard Business Review)


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