Leadership is not a science but an art form and the leader is the artist painting on a canvas of infinite possible directions and outcomes. And the medium? The medium is the interpersonal interactions the leader has with those around them. It is the imagery of vision language and the emotional palette of empathy and motivation. And like all true art, the leadership is a reflection of the true character of the leader.
Our values, ethics, creativity, and personality all play into our leadership, they create a unique colour of paint that runs down our arm as we lead, colouring everything and everyone associated with our leadership. It is important for us to be aware of this influence and recognize that it represents a significant responsibility.
The big secret of leadership is that there are no big secrets to success. No one out there has the answer for your leadership issue because no two situations are alike and there is no one right path to follow, no rules that will always work. Leading people is a messy business and the only good advice is really just to be yourself – be the best possible version of yourself.
The great masterpieces that you see in museums and galleries were not happy accidents. A great artist works at their craft; they experiment, take risks, fail and learn from their failures. No great painter became great by reading books about the art form. The art of leading (influencing and persuading) deals with complex issues of clear communications, transmitting concepts and vision, motivating groups and individuals, and managing and coaching for performance. These things do not occur as happy accidents and although you may gain insight, you will not gain experience in them from reading about them. It takes time and thought and practice to become a good leader. And as you improve, you will find that your leadership will not look like anyone else’s.
My wife is the lead singer for her band. When she sings, she doesn’t try to emulate a certain popular singer. She may be aware of other singers and may even study their styles, but her objective is not to end up being like someone else, but rather to become the best version of herself possible. It is like this with leading as well. The best leader you can be will not come from emulation, but rather from self-awareness and practice.
Take your charge of leading seriously. Work on your art form with leadership excellence as your measure of success. Make experience over knowledge your objective. And as you do so, keep two concepts central: humility and other-centeredness. Humility because your ego is your largest threat to success. And other-centeredness because a leader does not lead for their own gain. The motivation of a leader is to see other people succeed. Now, go work on your craft and don’t be afraid to splash some paint around!