Artisans – Unconscious Leaders

How often, in an appraisal or interview, have you had people who say they are leaders?

If you ask them what the basis for their leadership is, it often goes a little quiet.

We have created cultures where leadership is seen as a promotion beyond management. Something better on the job title. Something we progress to that happens magically with a pay rise and attendance on an expensive one week course.

I find that often people who have to call themselves leaders, aren’t. It’s like Gurus. If you have to tell people you’re one, you’re not. Leadership, like Guru status is something other people assign to you without telling you.

Artisans, and artists are often powerful leaders, although suffer from the disadvantage that their leadership often manifests after they’re dead. Their power to trigger insight, or enthuse us with their vision and example has real longevity, and applicability in many different scenarios. Their dedication to their particular craft throughout their lives inspires us.

Calling ourselves leaders or gurus requires a double dose of hubris before breakfast. Managers, on the other hand is something we can all aspire to, train for, and is something we are generally short of in organisations today.

Not those who have it on their job title, but those who actually have the skills to do it. To shepherd groups of wayward ideas and difficult people to work in particular ways that means we can measure, track and adjust based on evidence. That’s management. We don’t take it seriously enough, demand enough of it, or recognise it well enough.

Buskers can be excellent managers. Transient people dealing effectively with short term challenges, but to effect changes in people’s hearts and minds, we need Artists and Artisans.

People committed to an idea and values who are not bothered if you don’t follow them. If you don’t want to follow, you’re not the person they need – and that’s fine.

If you’re going to regard what others say as some sort of gospel or dogma, stop. Take it out and burn it. Now. Instead, gather interesting thoughts from a variety of sources and disciplines, then BE YOUR OWN GURU!

John Boyd, Essence of Winning and Losing.

Artists and artisans do not set out to be leaders, and do not aspire to it. They have ideas, and express those ideas in ways that resonate, from sculpture to music, and they just do work that matters for those who choose to follow. If you have work like that, then your status as a leader will follow (at some point).

Until then, work at being a brilliant manager. Management matters.

Leadership emerges from the soul.

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