How the World’s Greatest Artists Can Make You a More Creative Leader
This is an excerpt from Every Leader is an Artist by Michael O’Malley and William Baker.
The most arresting lesson from Monet is that the life of wonderful works begins as an abstraction–as a vague concept that the artist is invested in refining and realizing. As with art, leadership too is the embodiment of an idea. We usually refer to these ideas as vision; however, we think that word is overused and feeds the egotism of leaders. We prefer to use the word intent because it is naturally coupled with behavior, whereas vision is not.
Too often the production of vision statements is a stand-alone exercise with no forward thrust: meaningful strings of words with no impetus behind them. On the other hand, intent is the immediate precursor to action. Intentions keep us focused on what is most important to us and guide our behaviors accordingly. In addition, unlike vision, intent situates responsibility. When the author of an idea states what he or she is trying to do, there is no question who is supposed to do it.
Intent, perhaps, finds its nearest expression in a company’s mission statement, but again, we think intent has advantages for its:
- Intuitive, compact simplicity
- Clarity and specificity–as opposed to nebulous wishful thinking
- Usability throughout the organizational hierarchy
- Unambiguous link to action and accountability
Indeed, vision and mission have become the products of ritualistic corporate exercises that rest inertly on walls or in corporate promotional materials as camouflage for the real business of making money. If the mission were so important, then presumably you would know what yours is. Do you?
Intentions cut through corporate-speak by which we exhaustively dissemble vision, mission, objectives, and goals, often getting trapped in the minutiae of an esoteric exercise and losing sight of our true aims. All we really want to know is, “What is the problem you are trying to solve, and what are you going to do about it?” The specific aims generally are to enhance the organization’s ability to compete by improving upon the many facets of innovation, operational efficiency, and executional excellence.
My thoughts about intention:
Artful creation involves Intention, Attention, Aesthetics, Meaning-making and Purpose. Artists begin their work with intention and purpose. Intention is a distinguishing factor that separates art from non-art. In other words, a work of art is so, because of the intention of the artist.
Intention and purpose are guiding forces of leadership as well, and leaders will fail if their intention is misunderstood, or their purpose unclear. A vision, if it is to transcend the realm of imagination, must be embodied or enacted. In short, I agree with points made by the authors in this excerpt. See my blog post on making life and work a work of art.