Leading with the Artist

“Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight…”
-Mary Oliver, the poet

Some months ago I was challenged by a trusted friend to lead more with the artist in me. I wasn’t even sure there was an artist in me, though I believe I have some artistic sensibilities. In any case, I chose to try leading more with that intention – to discover and honor the artist in me. I am already aware of three specific outcomes:

  1. Less concern about performance and more attentive to expression
    I have a strong feeling function (Myers-Briggs). Still, I am perplexed by how much I can over-think how I want to show up in the world. Consequently, I fail to step into action as much as I would like. Expressing myself with more heart and choosing to think less about what is happening is one consequence of leading more with the artist in me. I am calculating less how I am performing and choosing to explore in action new ways of being myself.
  2. Don’t necessarily need to scale
    My work with social entrepreneurs and innovative leaders immersed in design thinking reinforces the belief that one’s “project” should always be capable of expansion and growth. Bigger is better! The world certainly needs visionary change agents who can transform an entire enterprise or maybe even a whole continent. But as John Seely Brown astutely contests: “Artists are not included in our debate on how to build the economy for the future.” I am more at peace with myself these days as a professional whose contribution may be less about replication and more about insight.
  3. See the world differently
    The artist sees the world with more color and texture, different nuances and variations, greater depth and broader perspective. In the spirit of Mary Oliver’s poetic wisdom, I am frequently more animated and enlivened by what I encounter these days, whether close to home as part of my routine or distant venues as I travel. My blind spots are less prevalent perhaps.   My vision is changing. New energy results.

I am learning not to be so self-conscious.