The Art of Leadership

Many people think about leadership as a process or a method.

If I input X then I can get my team to give me Y. And that might be true if the people you were leading were simply robots; easy to program and decode.

But the nature of leadership is that it’s messy humans leading messy humans. Humans who have deep-seated fears, hang-ups from the past, and dreams about the future.

So many leaders try their best to squeeze their teams into a box they want them to be in. They talk about leadership like a big chess game or a mass propaganda campaign. For a long time, that kind of leadership was effective, but the smarter and more powerful human beings have become, the less effective that style of leadership has become.

This is why I often talk to my clients about the art of leadership.

When you see leadership as an art you can begin to see the constraints of your team like the colors in your palette.

You can begin to see the uncertainty in the market place as the distortion your eyes create when it looks out on a landscape.

You can begin to see each challenge as an invitation to create art, inspiration, and possibility.

But this can only happen if you let go of the machine of leadership and the x=y mentality.

If you paint by numbers 1 may equal red, but if you paint as an artist 1 can be any color you want, so long as it invokes purpose, beauty, and serves the people you long to change.

Leadership as an art can be intimidating because what’s right gives way to what works and who’s in charge gives way to who’s committed.

But people are done being treated like machines. Especially the kind of smart, talented, caring individuals who you want to lead.

This is why when you take on the task of leading with art not only does your life get easier and more interesting, the people around you also become better at being who they already are.


Your being is more valuable

We tend to think about worth in relationship to what we do for people.

Beyonce deserves to make a ton of money because of the singing and performing she does. I can charge a thousand dollars per hour because of the kind of coaching I do. A brilliant programmer deserves to make $100k+ a year because of the code he writes.

But looking at worth as a function of the value of our doing isn’t truthful.

  • If you have children how much would you pay in ransom to get them back from a kidnapper? Assuming you were confident they’d be returned to you.
  • If your partner needed a life-saving procedure and it cost $50k or $100k what lengths might you go to get that money?

And yet if you look simply at what the people closest to you actually do, it’s often very simple.

  • Children draw crayon drawings, they snuggle, they play.
  • Your partner talks to you about your day, maybe cooks a meal or two, and gives you affection.

What makes them special isn’t what they do?
What makes them special is who they are for you.

Your children are the only people who can BE your children. If I came over and drew with crayons for you it wouldn’t be the same.

Your partner is the only person who can BE your partner for you. You won’t feel the same level of depth with a house cleaning service or assistant even if they do a better job cleaning your home and helping you manage your life.

It’s who we are for people that matter most. So much so that it’s almost impossible to replace.

Yet leaders forget this all the time.

As a leader, you obsess over what you’re doing all day, when what your team really needs is for you to BE a leader for them.

What matters is who you are for people.

As a leader who you are for people is presence, integrity, and a stand for their greatness. 90% of what you, 90% of the magic is being this for other people. 10% is what you do as you be this.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your greatest value is in what you do.

Your real value is who you are for other people.

Learn to be great for them.


How Great Leaders Show Up

Why do you show up?

Is it to make money? Is it to acquire fame? Is it to prove yourself? Is it to establish your worth? Is it to help yourself?

More often than not we show up to bolster our bruised egos or to puff up our swollen ones.

But if you want to be a great leader, the leader of a tribe or just the leader of your own life, you can’t just show up for your agenda.

Your passion to serve yourself will only take you so far.

If you want the kind of passion that moves mountains, the kind of dedication that lights darkness, the kind of drive that defies reason, you have to find the people you long to serve.

You have to find a locus of motivation that lives outside your own small mind.

It’s only when your heart grows to hold another that showing up creates astounding impact.