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?
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.
“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.
Remember when you were a child at the dinner table?
If you had a mother, grandmother or aunt who was old-school, you likely heard these words when you were trying to avoid eating your vegetables – “Finish what’s on your plate.”
In their eyes, not eating your entire meal meant you weren’t getting all the nutrition you needed. It was their way of ensuring we would continue to be healthy and happy.
Fast forward into our adult lives, and someone who’s busy will often say, “There’s a lot on my plate.”
That’s probably true about you. Ideas, projects, family and work responsibilities, marketing and branding yourself, planning for the future – it feels like there’s no way you can finish it all. Your plate is full and your first impulse to push it away and run from the table.
But some items on your plate must be finished no matter what – the vegetables of the creative life, you might call them. Dedicating time to connect with God daily. Being a good spouse, family member and friend. Doing your best creative work.
Here’s the catch – when we were small, our parents and guardians fixed our plates for us. Now, we determine what’s on the menu.
“A paycheck is the bribe they give you to give up on your dreams.”
This phrase has been circulating in social media circles recently, and the implication is clear. According to this mindset, those that work for a traditional company with a salary are less likely to explore other options, like being self-employed or attempting to do something more rewarding with their lives.
But is this a true assumption?
Do people who maintain a traditional job sacrifice their dreams simply by being employed?