If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams
Artistry and leadership don’t necessarily seem to belong in the same category. We usually equate leadership with political or cultural movements, but typically we don’t expect our artists to have leadership qualities. However, the reverse is often true. Artists have been among the most influential figures in history, helping to shape culture in ways politicians and social activists could only dream of.
Take for example, the many social concerts that have raised awareness of humanitarian efforts, such as Live Aid and the famous “We are the World” recording that benefited famine stricken areas in Africa. Or, consider the striking photographs of Chinese protesters standing up to tanks in Tiananmen Square. In these instances, artists influenced the world in a way that shifted opinions and fostered new cultural discussions.
A responsibility to lead?
However, leadership is more than simply drawing attention to an issue. Not only do leaders cast vision and create movements, they also have to lead the people who are following the movement. This begs the question – must the artist who desires to be great also take on the responsibility of being a leader?
“Dad, you’re out of tune.”
I never had the guts to say these words out loud, but I was tempted when I heard my dad whistling. He has a funny habit of whistling along to tunes that he has never heard, totally missing the melody, and then claiming that the songwriter / singer has it wrong. It used to bother me to death. Now, I don’t mind so much.
My father has supported my music career from the very beginning. But I think he’d be the first to admit he’s not a musician in any sense of the word. That doesn’t mean, however, that he hasn’t had a profound influence on how I live out my chosen profession.
Here’s 4 things my non-musician dad taught me about music.
You don’t have to be a musician to be good at music.
While my dad might whistle out of tune, he has no problem holding down a note. He’ll even take a solo with the Men’s Chorus at my hometown church now and again. I’m sure, as my mom and I taught music professionally, that he often laughed at our attempts to get choirs to sing correctly and instrumentalists to play the right notes. He never struggled with finding a bass line or finding a harmony. This reminds me that music isn’t all about showcasing my training or relying on my knowledge. I just need to be good at what I do and let my talent speak for itself.
It’s good to be a superhero nowadays.
First of all, you’re almost guaranteed to have a movie made about you. Or maybe an entire series. People will wear your uniform at Halloween, put your symbol on their cars, and cheer you on as you save the day time and time again.
However, you also have a lot of competition in the superhero game. Every week there’s another superhero series being rebooted, and people might not notice you as much when the next big hero movie comes out. (Has any even seen Captain Planet lately)?
All joking aside, the growing crowd of revived superhero characters is a fitting parallel to the current state of the artistic world.
There’s something about a gift that makes everyone happy.
Whether it’s a for birthday, a holiday, or just because, there’s nothing quite like the moment that someone is presented with a gift. Even the people who know what’s inside the present watch with eager anticipation, waiting to see the gift revealed and the reaction of the recipient. Something about the process of opening a present makes us want to be a part of it.
As a creative, you’re probably accustomed to people referring to you as ‘gifted.’ Your gift was given to you by your Creator, and you’ve likely spent your life unwrapping it and sharing it with others. What happens when people are more interested in the gift than the person that is doing the giving?
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
― Leonardo da Vinci
Most creatives have no problem with coming up with ideas. We enjoy the process of brainstorming, thinking ‘what if’, and dreaming of possibilities.
Making those possibilities a reality, however, is a different story.
Sometimes, instead of being productive creators, we can become professional procrastinators. There’s a big difference between coming up with amazing ideas, and actually making them happen. Here’s what happens when we focus more on thinking of ideas rather than on finishing them.
First of all, we can become overwhelmed by the size of the task. At this stage, some of us decide the big idea is not worth the energy and discipline it will take. We keep our ideas inside a box of ‘only if it’s realistic.’ Which of course, guarantees that we’ll never push a big idea forward.