Bringing Creativity and Simplicity to Leadership

Leadership can be a very interesting and dynamic discussion.

There are hundreds of opinions on the matter and no shortage of advice out there for people looking to make a tangible difference in their respective roles.

When the topic of leadership surfaces, I invariably steer those in the conversation to the book entitled ‘The Art of Possibility.’

Some of you may have heard me singing the praises of this book before. 

It isn’t a particularly hard book to read and doesn’t have a lot of theory – what it does suggest are some fairly intuitive practices that are powerful in their simplicity.

Authored by Rosamund Stone Zander, a family therapist and landscape painter, and Benjamin Zander, a conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music, the book is rare in that it offers a set of breakthrough practices for creativity in all human enterprises.

The reference to the Arts (music, sports, philosophy etc.) opens up the discussion on leadership in a unique way – these approaches are familiar to the search of core meanings.

So where do we start? The first step I think is with the title – “The Art of Possibility”. Possibility - what an incredible word. Not leadership, not competition, not being No. 1 – just possibility. The word radiates abundance, potential, capability and positions us openly to what is. An open mind makes it possible to seek solutions in ways we wouldn’t explore if our objective is “winning” or “getting our way”. Our brain constructs the reality so why not let it construct a “reality” of abundance and openness. For an organization, resources are more likely to come when you are generous and inclusive and engage people in your passion.

There are two practices in particular that I would recommend from the book:

• Giving an A – this practice accepts people for their incredible talent, passion and commitment. Giving an A speaks to people not from a place of measurement, how they stack up against our standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves. The “A” brings people together under a common purpose.
• Contribution is the other practice. Nothing ever gets done without action. We have to stand up and be counted. It’s not about right or wrong or about success and failure. Contribution has no side; it is about what you are prepared to do to solve an issue or problem.

Why is any of this important? Because as leaders we can contribute, we can move forward from any chair, whether that chair is on the third floor or the cafeteria. Leadership is not a responsibility; nobody has to lead or has to take on the assignment. But when you do, it is because something calls out to you to help, to contribute and to lead.

I hope, if you have a chance to read the book, that it will open up your way of thinking, challenge some of your assumptions and guide you through a set of practices to explore a new path in leadership.