On Leadership, Art, and Creativity

Leadership… with art and creativity?

Can leadership be art? What does creativity have to do with this equation?

Creativity fits into art, but where does creativity fit into leadership? Have you ever experienced leadership in such a way that impacts you like art can? Combining the topics of leadership with art and creativity is like mixing oils with water for some. But are these topics really strange bedfellows? Or are they a match made in heaven?

A Mixed Bag?

Do you think about these topics playing nicely together in the same sandbox? Or do you tend to think of leadership in terms of structured strategic execution living alone in isolation away from art and creativity? Or would that type of left-brained operational understanding be more of a “management” thing and not in the realm of a modern understanding of leadership?

These are not questions we ask every day, but these types of questions show an interesting discovery about a few critical components of leadership.

Read on because the combination of art and creativity in roles of leaders may actually surprise and inspire you to think differently about your leadership and that of others around you!


ART – The What

Art is everywhere and the definition of it is broadening by the minute. The traditional forms of art like , sculpture, signing, drama, drawing, poetry and writing exist all around us and are easy to identify . The more modern versions of art are spin-offs of the classics. These would be things like acting in and making movies, TV, Internet, or in designs for brands, products and services.

The modern platforms have broadened the canvass upon which artists can now create, but hidden within all the mediums and all the forms of art is a central theme that seems to endure time and technological advancement; it is the moment.

The moment is what artists of every persuasion, press to contain, present, leverage and expose. The more successfully an artist can portray a moment to the audience, the more powerful the artist is. Moments have power. They move us emotionally and they draw us in.

One artist put it like this:

Art is Communication. ~ James Howell

Glance at a painting that captures a moment in a way that is relevant to you and all the other art becomes insignificant until you finish experiencing the moment that painting has captured for you. You become fully engaged in the moment. You simply get lost in it. It could be about yesterday; it could be about tomorrow – but it has your full attention and it compels us to remain until the emotion and the experience loosen their grip enough for reality to intrude.

Art is the ability to define or express a moment with such clarity, interpretation and conviction that it draws you in. Art is “the what.”



Creativity is essentially how the artists compels us. What she/he compels us with is a choice of medium, story and moment. How the artist compels us is a matter of creativity. In fact it could be said that without creativity, the moment is just an historic freeze-frame.

A black & white portrayal of a moment devoid of any emotional attachment or experience, lacking all artistic portrayal and story telling. It would be devoid of any compulsion and lacking the ability to engage.

It is creativity that chooses this angle over that angle, this color over that color, this texture over that texture. In short it is very intentional. In the mind of the artist, creativity is the means through which the viewer will be moved. It is the tool that is used to bring the moment to life and without the moment, there is no art.

Creativity is the way the artist chooses to connect with the viewer.

See this brand new report on what a IBM report says is the number one global concern for leaders today: Creativity



I think leadership essentially surrounds the concepts of who.

Just as in art, if you remove the moment or the creativity, you no longer have art. In leadership if you remove the people, you no longer have leadership. Since leadership is all about the people and art and creativity is also for people, perhaps leadership can learn from art?

Could leadership need a ‘moment’, just like art does?

I would say YES. Artistic moments are finite, measurable in time and space, emotional, and full of impact. Leadership is that which facilitates a finite, measurable and impactful event. If it is emotional along the way, then it further engages those involved and compels them to more of the same, increasing commitment and alignment.

Wrapping it Together

Artists go to great lengths to portray a moment with staggering clarity, so there is no confusion (to the viewer) about the moment.

Leaders can do the same in their leadership by bringing focused clarity (to the team) so that there is no confusion about what moment is being pursued.

What about creativity? Some would say it has a better leadership fit than a moment, yet as leaders, I don’t think we pay as much attention to this component. The secret behind leadership creativity, or ‘how’ you lead, is the intention.
Artists press viewers to go a certain way by their creativity. They intentionally choose one shade of red over another, because it serve their intentional purpose of getting the viewer where they want them to go.

Leaders should use the same focused intention as creative artists do when leading a team toward an outcome.

That means leaders must know all they can about all the colors of the palette in front of them. In other words, leaders must be very familiar with the circumstances of their surroundings. All the forces at play at any given time, pull in one direction or another. Choosing a particular shade of red, or in leadership terms, choosing one particular path over another, must be done because it leads somewhere on purpose.

Don’t ever lead by default or convenience, you will not find emotional engagement there.

As it turns out, leaders and artists have much in common. They are both pushing toward a clear moment. They both use creativity to specifically draw the people they are engaging to that moment. And in both cases, the recipient of all the effort is people!

So how are you doing at looking carefully at your leadership? Are you involving creative aspects of to increase your level of influence with those around you? Are you thinking with your right-brain to look for stimulating NEW ways of doing things. Or are you stuck in a creative/artistic rut that needs that help of others to increase your leadership dynamics? I’d love to hear you thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Allan Kelsey
Allan Kelsey
is  Managing Director of Leading Leaders in Keller, TX
He helps clients create Dramatically Improved Performance and Life Satisfaction

Email | LinkedIn | TwitterWeb

Image Sources: fc07.deviantart.com, customerserviceworks.com, walteramerika.blogs.com

5 responses to “On Leadership, Art, and Creativity

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention On Leadership, Art, and Creativity « Linked 2 Leadership -- Topsy.com·

  2. Allan — Brilliant analogy, “creatively” presented, and full of good advice. So many companies have reserved this outlook of leadership to the higher echelon. Yet in truth it is needed throughout the organization — especially close to the front line. Love your post and will RT it on Twitter.

    I have seen many front line teams being led by “managers” who focus on tasks and metrics and yet wonder why the teams are not inspired to give more. To inspire you must tap the creative thoughts of the team members and make empowerment a perk not a punishment.

    Here are a few more tips on leading front line teams with inspiration:


    All the best,
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach


  3. Fascinating article Allan and exactly the types of questions and issues we seek to address with leaders as well as with teams. Check us out at http://www.mindmosaics.com – the site is in early development but what we do is well advanced.

    Please feel free to get in touch and find out more.



  4. Pingback: Future Leaders from Unlikely Places | Smart Journalism. Real Solutions. Miller-McCune.·

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