Leader = artist

I got the following article from a colleague today, and it struck me as definitively different than most of the ways I have seen leadership defined.  The author says, “leadership is an actual art, not metaphorically an art.”

I am struck by the specificity of qualities of a leader mentioned in the article – certainly artistic in nature – that I believe hold true whether one runs a classroom or a company.  And these are not things that have always been considered important for leaders.  It seems to me that this “take” on leadership is, indeed, part of the evolution of leadership and facilitation that I believe to be a defining part of 21st Century Education.

The aspects of intent, authenticity, human significance, and criticism caught my eye. 

I find myself more and more often clarifying my intent in various situations to students.  “It is my greatest intention to be helpful right now.  Would you like my help?”  Or “I intend to help you learn as much as possible today.”  Or “I intend for the things we learn in music class to carry with you far beyond the walls of this classroom.”  I don’t think we can take for granted that students know our heart’s intention unless we plainly tell them.

Perhaps the hardest people on the planet to fool are children.  At some level, I believe that students know intuitively when we are being inauthentic.  In order to encourage children to be their truest selves, we need to model – in as many moments as possible – our truest, most authentic selves.  It is also my experience that synergy develops around authenticity – when we are our most true selves, the true desires our our hearts and minds come toward us.

Human significance is not one of the things I was taught to consider in my formal education training.  The importance of this subject came from other sources.  But imagine the impact of a teacher/leader who acknowledges what is possible for each person and encourages reflection about who we most want to be/become.  Hopefully we have each had a mentor shower the gift of human significance upon us at least one in our lives.

The final point that caught my eye was criticism.  In my experience, most teachers were taught that being competent and “right” were important characteristics of a successful and worthy teacher.  I am reading a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck that highlights 2 different kinds of mindsets: fixed and growth.  In a fixed mindset, we believe that our intelligence is static.  In a growth mindset, we believe that intelligence can be developed.  It makes sense to me that having a fixed mindset makes it much more difficult to accept criticism from others.  We may believe we have failed and are somehow not worthy, and our ability to change is shut down.  But a flexible or growth mindset would allow us to accept such criticism and continue to develop our intelligence and skills.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but modeling all of the above qualities in ourselves makes them more viable options for students as well.  When they see them “living and breathing” in someone else, they more easily see these attributes as possible in them.

The intended audience for this piece is clearly a corporate one, but I found much inspiration in this article as an educational leader in my classroom as well.

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/08/every_leader_is_an_artist.html

I would welcome your comments and feedback.  May out artistry be evident in our leadership in the classroom and beyond!

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