What Artists Know About Leadership

HBS Working Knowledge:
The image of artist, cast as a metaphor for those who provide acts of leadership, immediately evokes two primary responses—affirmation and resistance. Those who think of themselves as artists in the conventional sense of the word—for example, painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, architects, photographers, and some athletes and gardeners—may pick up the metaphor with ready enthusiasm, recognizing that incorporating their artist-self into their practice of leadership opens into a horizon of powerful possibilities. But those who suffered through their last required art project in school, or who hold the stereotype of an artist as nonrational, asocial, marginal, or soft—may cast a more jaundiced eye upon this metaphor.
It is highly likely, however, that the jaundiced eye belongs to someone who in some aspect of his or her professional or personal life exemplifies the power and qualities of an artist: the ability to work on an edge, in an interdependent relationship with the medium, with a capacity for creative improvisation. (Entrepreneurs and some politicians, physicians, and educators, for example, are akin to artists, seeking to bring into being what has not yet taken form.)
Hmmm.

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