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July 3, 2012

News & Opinion: Every Leader is an Artist

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:21 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy

If your leadership style was a painting, could it be sold on the market?

This might seem like an odd question, but Drs. Michael O'Malley and William Baker see leadership literally as an art, in a different medium. Leaders have a highly critical audience that they display their work to on a daily basis. Like a painter, it's difficult to create a masterpiece everyday, but practice and dedication will help. And like the art world, those who observe art on a regular basis don't translate into artists themselves. In either case, one has to do the work. This concept and it's metaphor are thoroughly explored in their book, Every Leader is an Artist: How the World's Greatest Artists Can Make You a More Creative Leader.
There are elementary skills to be perfected if one is to have any chance at success at leading others.  We would say that it starts with a love of the constituent materials and an appreciation for what they are capable of producing. In leadership, that means people. It is possible to get a batch of bad clay; and people, too, may disappoint. But at heart, if leaders don't have affection for the people who depend upon them, we do not see how they can ever excel. Great leaders don't curse the resourceful variability of people. Rather, they embrace the infinite possibilities, the nuances, the personalities, and, at times, the miraculous. A predicate of leadership achievement is a foundational love of people and their individual aspirations.

While there are definitely comparisons and examinations of artist's techniques and approaches, the book is clearly about business leadership. And because it's written intelligently within a unique context, readers will think differently about leadership, their own skills, and how they guide and influence people. And it's not an overly long book, making it full of interesting and useful information all the way through the last page.

And think about that question at the start of this post - how valuable are your leadership skills? How much would someone pay for them? It's a worthy consideration for anyone managing people and business.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.