Artist as Leader — Leader as Artist: Part 1

Living inside me, living inside you, inside each one of us is an artist. Boy in Fountain.jpgGuiding us on our artistic and creative journey of adventure through life is the leader that lives within. The cultivation and nurturance of this leader is, interestingly, also the ultimate job of every leader, whether in the home, business or government, religion or education….
The mission statement of the renown Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) honors this relationship between art and leadership:
“To empower creativity and leadership in Native arts and cultures through higher education, lifelong learning and outreach.”
I was recently contacted by the IAIA to provide resiliency related programing for one of their classes. This post arises out of some 3AM reflections provoked by my anticipation of meeting the students there.
Daily we paint, sculpt, dance, write and edit with the tools we come into life with. These include both the genetic propensities of the clay ‘we are given’, and the canvases, brushes, pens, papers, blades, chisels, hammers and floors and spaces provided by our environmental nurturance, and also those acquired through our passions and disciplines….
Happiness researchers have recently estimated that 50% of our personality and happiness are genetic. Then there are the family and environmental influences, the nurture side of the equation. What we do with all these amalgams lies in the domain of our inner leadership.
Somewhere along the fine and blurry edges of these amalgams, between what we arrive with, are given and acquire, we learn — if the awareness so awakens within us — that our very Self is the ultimate work of art of our lives.
Do we re-discover how to breathe with the fullness of ease of a baby, and with the wild freedom of a roaring Lion?
Do we finally embody the peace and presence of the old growth Fir tree in the primeval forest? Do we walk through the world on two legs rooted in the firmament of beauty?
Do we remember how to belly-laugh and giggle and cry with the spontaneity of a child at play? Do we embrace the love of Life for all we are worth?
Do we discover how to drop, release and let go of the requisite domesticated patterns of comparing our self with others, of self denigration and self-inflation, of loyalty to the voices of should and ought and can’t? Do we claim at last the voice of our own authentic and true being, the voice of our own heart’s true cares and desires?
Do we pick up and live the gift of learning, of living in a world of beauty; with beauty before us and behind us and all around us, do we leave a trail of beauty?1
Ah, to be an artist or a leader is no small thing. It is to be true and loyal, to risk the authenticity of our wild joy, to listen to and honor the intelligence, wisdom and silence greater than ourselves that would flow through us the way water flows to the sea.
Are you, am I, willing to risk the adventure of such a surrendered path of our own creation? To do so is to be wildly resilient. And it is to be an artist, and a leader.
1 With acknowledgement to the Navajo Blessing Way Prayer

1 Comment

  1. marc choyt

    02/13/2009 at 3:21 pm

    Another way of looking at mature male leadership…
    The initiated male leader carries both the puer (eternal youth) and senex (wise old man) as an internal dialectic. A younger man must find that structure, sense of history and patience to balance out his path breaking spirit. An older man must find his inner puer, which carries the radical, fresh and innovative way to looking at the his handmade life. Without these two qualities in balance, life path can get too much senex (too structured and ridged, or too ungrounded (the puer).

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