Topic: You as leader; you as artist.  

February 2014 Newsletter

  It’s odd how leadership can, at times, feel so unlike anything else and, at other times, be so similar to everything else. In homage to that paradox, I read Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles & Ted Orland – a wonderfully meaningful exploration of "the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn't get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way." Its relevance – for artists and leaders, alike – did not disappoint. See for yourself:
  • “Making art [bz: being a leader] means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction.” 
  • “In large measure becoming an artist [bz: becoming an exceptional leader] consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.” 
  • “Our flaws and weaknesses, while often obstacles to our getting work done, are a source of strength as well. Something about making art [bz: about becoming a more compelling leader] has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we SHOULD do them.”
  • “What’s really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way.”
  • “You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn't very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren't good, the parts that aren't yours. It’s called feedback, and it’s the most direct route to learning about your own vision. It’s also called doing your work.”
  • “Artists [bz: leaders] get better [bz: become more compelling and impactful] by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning FROM their work.”
  • “For the artist [bz: for the leader], the issue of acceptance begins as one simple, haunting question: When your work is counted, will it be counted as ART [bz: as LEADERSHIP]?”
  • “The far greater danger is not that the artist [bz: the leader] will fail to learn anything from the past, but will fail to teach anything new about the future.”
  • “The undeniable fact is that your art [bz: your impact as a leader] is not some residue left when you subtract all the things you haven’t done – it is the full payoff for all the things you HAVE done.”
  • “The dilemma every artist [bz: every leader] confronts, again and again, is when to stick with familiar tools and materials, and when to reach out and embrace those that offer new possibilities.”
  • “The hardest part of artmaking [bz: of being the best leader you can be] is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over – and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.”
  • “In healthy times you rarely pause to distinguish between internal drive, sense of craft, the pressure of a deadline or the charm of a new idea – they all serve as sources of energy in the pieces you make [bz: in the decisions you make].”
  • “Learning is the natural reward of meetings with remarkable ideas, and remarkable people.” 
So how might you be more artistic in your leadership style? How might you better embrace the uncertainty, doubt, and contradiction in your workplace? How might you make your work that much more distinctive and in your own voice? What do you want to teach others about the future? What remarkable people and ideas deserve time on your calendar? 

As the authors say, “In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot – and thereby guaranteeing that it will NOT make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the more comforting choice.” 

What choice are YOU making, today? 


Be sure to visit my blog at to see the new posts I've added recently – including some excellent TED Talks. Maybe one of them will inspire you to greater things before you get my next newsletter. 

Now go do something truly outstanding, yes?!
- bz
Barry Zweibel | 847-291-9735
LeadershipTraction® |

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