The Art and Soul of Leadership

Leadership is primarily about grooming employees to punch above their weight. One way to achieve that is by nurturing employee self-development through exposure to The Arts and The Humanities. Help employees grow and flourish and so will the organization. Let’s call it¬†The Art and Soul of Leadershipūüôā

Central to the thought process I am positing here is the fact that an organization becomes a living entity only after people breathe life into it.

The life that is thus infused into a business becomes the soul of the organization and is labelled organizational culture. Conscious moulding of that life is then the art and soul of leadership.

Key to understanding this seemingly abstract thinking are three simple facts.

The first is that people work for a living. People work to raise the quality of life for their families and selves. That being the case, people’s anxieties mostly revolve around the job. Keeping it. And progressing enough in their career to be able to satisfactorily provide for themselves and their families. These anxieties, currently, have increased with the introduction of artificial intelligence, outsourcing, contract labour and the rise of the on-demand and shared services economy.

Second, many a person is riddled with uncertainty on the job. And scared to ask for help. Fact is that people need mentoring in professional and personal self-development. And organizations largely fail to provide it. Mostly, people are on their own. Which is why the world is divided between the go-getters and the also-rans. Sad, that! Because many an also ran could be a go-getter with some help. I wonder why organizations don’t have counsellors to help people in their quest for self-development and progress.

The third fact is that people spend maximum waking hours on the job. When the work environment is a stimulating, caring and happy one, they will rise each morning and look forward to another work day. Chances are high that in such a scenario, people will also feel more secure and contribute to the organization that much more.

Put all these facts together and consider the value of roping in The Arts and The Humanities to aid employee self-development and in the bargain, actively nurture the soul of an organization. One where creativity and innovation flourishes. One where employees are happy campers. One where lives are nourished.

Here are some ways how employees’ exposure to The Arts and The Humanities will aid their self-development and, in the bargain, an organization’s soul:

Creativity and Innovation. One needs to be sensitized to the big, big picture for creative (innovative) breakthroughs. Unfortunately, daily work pressures leave very little room to walk the streets observing life go by. Or, read as much as one should. Or, just talk to people figuring out what makes them, and life, tick. The professions that are very good at understanding life, drawing the big picture and imagining the future are The Arts and The Humanities. Actively engaging professionals from these streams may just do wonders to teach and stimulate creative thinking in employees. Seriously, think about it. In an earlier post I wrote Briefing:Brilliance, I touched on how people can be encouraged to dream of endless possibilities by regularly holding discussions on books, movies and news within office time as people development strategy. Here, I am going one step further. I am suggesting that organizations bring in authors, musicians, theatre folk and other artists to help employees understand life and stimulate dreaming. Face it. Most people tend to live in their own narrow little worlds in an ever-expanding and changing universe. The Arts and The Humanities will help expand their horizons.

Communication Skills.¬†I am sure I don’t need to elaborate on just what an important role communication skills play in productivity and persuasion. Without belaboring the point, let me ask here, “Who better than an author, music artist or theatre personality to teach communication skills and creative expression?” There are two aspects to excellent communication. The first is, what is the principal message you wish to convey. And the second is how well that message is expressed. Professionals from The Arts and The Humanities are eminently qualified to teach both aspects.

Teamwork.¬†Perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by leadership everywhere is instituting a culture of teamwork. How does one get a group of people to pull together in the direction the organization needs them to? It’s difficult because there is only that much room at the top and too much competition for the few slots available at the top of the pyramid. Turf battles are inevitable. Worse, office politics can, and often does, kill good ideas.

The Taylor Woodrow sculpture in Solihull, UK. Taken at 12:51 PM on September 29, 2006; cameraphone upload by ShoZu. Image credit - Kim S ( CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Taylor Woodrow sculpture in Solihull, UK. Taken at 12:51 PM on September 29, 2006; cameraphone upload by ShoZu. Image credit – Kim S ( CC BY-SA 2.0)


Here’s where The Arts and The Humanities can help. Bringing people together through The Arts and The Humanities will help getting people to understand life, themselves, each other, the big, big picture and……break the ice. Take music for example. Nothing works as well as music to soothe tempers and according to¬†Leonid Pervolsky (Harvard University), music actually helps navigate a world rife with contradictions (link to the article is available at the end of this post). Consider that. Then, consider that nothing works magic like a discussion on a good movie or book. It’s neutral ground and of interest to all. It’s also a great way to demonstrate that people can work together to understand, analyse and draw inspiration. I recently got my team at Sterling Holiday Resorts together and held a discussion on the film¬†The Imitation Game. I used the film as case material to teach my team the role human psychology plays in arriving at breakthrough insights. We spent around an hour in a state of animation and more important, camaraderie. Another time, I organized a musical lunch just to get people away from a huge workload and provide a stress breaker. Needless to say, it worked. Nothing like a nice sing-a-long to relieve stress and bring people together. And oh, the strains of music and the food aromas bought many a curious colleague to our corner of the Sterling office.

Being a Good Employer.¬†I recently came across this great article,¬†Companies Led By Moral Bosses Are Actually More Profitable (link to the article is available at the end of this post). The article reports on a study conducted by leadership consulting firm KRW International, which concludes that good character also means good business. Amongst other character traits, the KRW report highlighted ‘virtuoso CEOs’ as standing up for the right issues, expressing concern for others and showing empathy. The last interests me. What better way to show empathy than to nurture the self-development of employees? What better way than to develop an organizational culture where management of companies serve as a parent or¬†guru to employees. And like parents do with their children , nurture employees to progress and grow (for more on this line of thinking, do read Redefining Corporate Social Responsibility.) One good way to achieve that is by facilitating employees to realize their full potential, and perhaps self-actualize, with the help of professionals from The Arts and The Humanities. Who knows what hidden talents may be discovered?

The soul is touched by music. A soul is known by its values. And the soul of an organization is influenced by the actions of its leadership.

To quote John C. Maxwell, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.”

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#The Imitation Game #Leadership #careers #HR #OrganizationDevelopment

Featured Image Credit: The motifs in Indian temples often use interconnected shaped and knots symbolizing karma and the link between all lives. Image labelled for reuse.

Related Links:

  1. Leonid Pervolsky (Harvard University) РResearcher: Music an evolutionary adaptation that helps us navigate a world rife with contradictions
  2. Jenny Che –¬†Companies Led By Moral Bosses Are Actually More Profitable¬†
  3. Lata Wonders – Briefing: Brilliance
  4. Lata Wonders – Redefining Corporate Social Responsibility

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