Byron's Babbles

Leading With Artisanship

Posted in Artisan, Artist, DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 2, 2020

It’s funny to me how reading something can make me think of something that I haven’t thought about, at least consciously, for a while. When reading Lesson 10, “Surrender Overthinking” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), I came across this statement:

“I don’t have a fantasy of being an artist…not in terms of painting, or sculpture, or any of the expressive arts. I do want to be an artist in how I serve people, and the work that I do in the world. If I’m overthinking, my art is compromised and my creative energy is spent spinning my wheels, or ‘catastrophizing forward’.”

~ David Taylor-Klause, 2020, Mindset Mondays with DTK, p. 98.

This got me to thinking about the work of Patricia Pitcher. Her work of studying leaders was very influential and I consider her to have been very influential on my leadership development. Her books The Drama of Leadership: Artists, Craftmen, and Technocrats and the Power Struggle That Shapes Organizations and Societies (1997) and Artists, Craftsmen, and Technocrats: The Dreams, Realities, and Illusions of Leadership (1997, 2nd edition) easily make my top five list of influential books. These books make the top of the list because they helped me understand myself as an artistic leader and be comfortable with that. Pitcher saw the artistic leader as an inspiring and visionary risk-taker, guided by an intuitive sense of the future. Now, unlike DTK who has no interest in being an expressive artist, I really want to be a rock star, but I just don’t have any talent. I do find great inspiration from studying rock bands, the inspiration for songs, and the innovative ideas they come up with.

“I am trying to think out a short story. I’ve got the closing sentence of it all arranged and it is good and strong, but I haven’t got any of the rest of the story yet.”

~ Mark Twain

The technocrat, the category which many leaders fit, is the nemesis of the artist. They are organized box checkers who use the term “teamwork” a lot, but operate with a “my way or the doorway” and “paint-by-numbers” mentality. The technocrat will be fearful of making imaginative decision and before any ideas can be thought through is already trying to fit the ideas in a box and understand how to manage it. Boy am I glad I did not end up a technocrat – I dream too much and I’ve got too much imagination for that. As an artist I do tend to overthink things, but usually not looking for problems. This was the point of DTK’s Lesson 10; we should not focus too much on what could go wrong. We need to anticipate obstacles and opportunities, but not let them hinder moving forward.

I learned from Pitcher that as an artist I will, at times, have vague, indefinable, long-term visions that get clarified by action and remaining open to new insights. Artists know where they are going, but sometimes it’s vague and more a trip that destination. This to me would be one way to keep from overthinking things – focus on the journey more than the destination. It’s why I choose to inspire with metaphors rather than with detailed descriptions of the future. Think about this:

“I claim that the visions of the visionary [artist] leader are no different in form or origin than those of an artist. If you ask a great painter what he or she’s going to paint next, it’s a rare one who will have a detailed answer and if he or she does, I doubt he or she satisfies the definition of great.

~ Patricia Pitcher, 1997, The Drama of Leadership, kindle location 196 of 2456.

Research tells us that the best artists stay radically open as they work on a canvas; there is a continuous interaction between a vague vision and the concrete act of painting. In my conversations with the artists and song writers in rock bands I have found the same thing. For example, a riff gets written and suddenly an entire song is born. It’s why we artist leaders live for the metaphor. I am always looking for intersectional creativity – the intersection of different fields, ideas, people, and cultures. DTK told us to “Take this moment to consider that there are endless possibilities, opportunities, and forces working on your behalf” (p. 98). We need, as Pitcher taught us, to let our intuitive sense of the future take over. So as we take to our leadership canvas, let’s open our minds to creativity, ideas, and opportunities, but not overthink all that could go wrong.

One Response

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  1. David Taylor-Klaus said, on November 3, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Ok, Byron … love the idea of stretching. When you’ve got your first rock album ready to go, I’ll design the album cover! What do you think?


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