Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Leadership: for only a select few, or for all?

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Recently I have been reading a lot of books and articles on leadership. It's facinating: typically, creatives don't see themselves as leaders, nor do they think that they might want to be a "leader" one day -- "Manage people? No way! I just want to be creative and design!"

I have been thinking more deeply about the concept of leadership, I am starting to realize that you don't have to have a certain title (like Art Director, Creative Director, or Vice President) to be a leader. That sounds naive, I know, but when you think about that idea, and really take ownership of it, it becomes a very powerful thing: You can be influential in your current position, at your current age, in whatever you are currently working on.

To me, the first part of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote (above) is more for the people who are leaders by title -- those who are trying to direct people and products and design work. Those people with the typical "leadership" titles. But the second part of the quote pertains to everyone, me, you, us, in our daily lives, in our daily jobs, in our creative work, in all we do. To "long for the endless immensity of the sea" is to absorb, learn, grow, influence those around us, collaborate, be creative, change, innovate, and influence. To dream up the seemingly impossible idea. To go for it will all of our passion and energy, and to succeed.

If you do this each day, I believe that you are a leader. But then again, I'm not a philosopher or writer or saint, so let me know what you think!


Erin! said...

Hi Erin!

Thank you for inviting me to see your blog! I really enjoyed all of your musings on art and the creative process, and can't wait to read more. (This is Erin from Syracuse, by the way).

This post in particular has really got me thinking about my own life. I have been an RA for 3 years, and, in that role, leadership is essential. I have been through so many leadership training session as it applies to Residence Life, but never to a leadership session for creatives. Maybe there should be one. Do we encounter much leadership as creatives? The role of art director is obvious, as you mentioned, but the artists themselves look like followers from an outside glance. I think that in art, being a leader means taking initiative and always trying to be better. However, it also means knowing that there is room to grow and the ability to take constructive criticism. In turn, leadership means being confidant in your abilities without being egotistical.

Does Hallmark have leadership training? In your experience, did being a leader influence your graphic design work?

This is a great post! (and a uber long comment, eek!) I've got a lot to think about. : )
Take care,

Anonymous said...

Erin-Thank you for your coming to check out my blog! Your enthusiasm is contagious, by the way. :o) I think that leadership isn't limited by profession, and that there are certain opportunities for us to lead at any level. For instance, you're leading right now by being an RA, which will help you become a leader in another situation and in your career (whatever it may be) later on in life. When I was in high school, I was in our Drama department and involved in speech. At the time, I didn't see it as leadership, but it has helped me all through life -- especially when talking to groups of students on campus during my recruiting trips! Funny how things work out sometimes... I think of leadership more as the "total cumulative experience of life." As for creative leadership, there are opportunites to lead on every level (from designer, to art director, to creative director) -- also, don't confuse leadership and job title. To answer your questions: yes, Hallmark as an official creative leadership training course (which I'm currently taking -- it's facinating), as well as unofficial leadership opportunities on all levels, such as leading a design project, working on a trends presentation for your team, or being involved in a brainstorm. So, YES, being a leader has influenced my design work, but also the way that I think about design as a whole. Thanks for your comment -- mine is long too! -e-