How To Lead Like An Artist

Several years ago a Hungarian artist named Istvan Banyai produced a wonderful children's book called Zoom. The book was recognized by the New York Times as one of the best children's books of the year and won an International Reading Association (IRA) Children's Choices Award based on the votes of kids themselves.

Publishers weekly described the book as “a perpetually surprising-and even philosophical-adventure”.  The New York Times noted that the beauty of the book is that it allows readers to get into the act, to use their observational and descriptive skills to decipher images and craft their own story.

Leaders can learn a lot from this powerful book.

If you want to see what I mean watch this video and then continue reading.

What did you notice?  Did you notice how the author led you to a place and surprised you along the way.  Did you notice how he revealed more information as time went on?  Did you recognize how the author began with an end in mind but left space for your mind to participate?  Did you notice how he started with details and gradually revealed the big picture?

Now turn your attention to what you experienced.

Did you experience both freedom and constraint?  Did you experience moments of certainty and surprise?  Were you certain that you were looking at a chicken but surprised to see a magazine cover?  How did you feel when you saw a bus on a city street?  How did it feel to experience uncertainty, joy, wonder, surprise and amusement?  Did you feel like you went on a perpetually surprising - and even philosophical - adventure?

As consumers of art it is easy to look at Banyai’s work and smile.  It is easy to experience his art and feel moved or inspired.  Many will look at Zoom and think that it was creative.  Many will look at it as innovative and inspiring.  Many will feel the emotions that come from a perspective shift but few will understand how to elicit those emotions.

Effective leaders know how to shift perspectives.  They create stories that others can live into.  They allow for freedom within constraints.  They imagine, adapt, design, expand, reveal, and inspire like an artist.

Question:  What are you doing to lead like an artist?