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"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


There are many ways in which we find ourselves in leadership roles as artists. This week I’d like to discuss how that has happened for us, what we struggled with, and as always what we learned.

My Answer:

As an artist, I try to led by example. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated, make the choices that I coach other people to make, and create the community I want to be a part of. When I see something is missing, I work toward that thing. I try to find answers to the questions I get asked.

Thoughts and Actions:

Every leader is an artist and every artist is a leader.

Leadership and art ask similar things of a person. Vision, vulnerability, a strong sense of values and self, drawing on a unique personality, creative energy, the ability to provide inspiration and promote self-expression, out-of-the-box-thinking, etc.

Many social movements have included artists prominently in their leadership. Developing creativity and critical thinking skills is as essential for future leaders as it is for all artists. Thus there is considerable and inevitable overlap.

“Cultural leaders” can shape how the general public thinks. Just consider the influence of television, film, music, art and architecture on our cultures and mainstream values.

Smart businesses seek out creative and artistic people for leadership roles for a reason. And yet, many artists (including myself) have a strong aversion to the business world.

Leadership has broadly been perceived to remain within the realm of “serious” activities. Those artists who have managed to enter the spheres of power and influence to lead others in committing to social change have largely been from the mainstream themselves. Actors, musicians, etc…

And yet, as artists, as storytellers, as capturers of the imagination like no other group, artists’ potential to change norms and values is enormous. With their visions, they have the potential to shift the Overton window, that frame of acceptable discourse from which change is possible.

That is one of the many burdens of the popular artist. If you have “power”… shouldn’t you do something with it?

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