Leadership, like art, is part imagination and part effort, part image and part impression. It is an almost magical combination of the tangible and intangible to create something that never before existed. Just as with great art, when leadership comes together – when it works – everyone can see it.
Leaders who are highly effective have rich character. Skill, knowledge and character all are required, but character is the quality above all others that cannot be captured in a PowerPoint. This is one place in which the leader as artist enters the equation. Artists connect us with the human story, taking us well beyond skill and knowledge. They pull together seemingly disparate thoughts into new ideas.
Artists often prefer a safe and structured environment to explore their own creative efforts. The parallel in the world of organizations could be seen as leaders creating a safe and accepting environment so that people can express their ideas, preferences and perspectives without fear of embarrassment or ridicule.
The first essential step to functioning as an effective and innovative leader is to understand the difference between creativity and creating. Effective leaders know that creative ideas alone are not sufficient. Beyond thinking creatively you have to actually create something. You have to put those ideas into motion and make them reality. Quite often this requires a set of skills and a way of looking at the world that is different from the skills and perspectives of the idea generator. The capacity to implement is the key to converting creativity into effective change.
Successful artists, entrepreneurs and leaders cultivate flexibility and develop relationships with people of different perspective. Each opportunity for change requires the creation of a new dialogue with different possibilities, different tasks, different players and different realities. Those people who can best manage that union will best understand the art of leadership.