May 29, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
I am a firm believer that we can learn much about how to lead from engaging with and in the arts. This post begins a series on the topic.
It’s a set of ideas I’ve been thinking and writing about for a long time. Quite simply, the arts “traffic in understanding,” in the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard – and understanding one’s internal and external worlds is at the heart of leadership effectiveness.
The major challenges in leading – understanding and working with those who are different from us, forging shared interests and common goals, motivating, influencing while remaining open to new learning, understanding the roots of competing interests and conflicts, finding lasting solutions to complex problems – echo life’s larger challenges.
The arts lay out these grand dilemmas in accessible form and invite us to reflect on and learn from them. I’ve been reminded of this by some recent events.
The first was a Ford Foundation conference held May 4, 2011 called "Fresh Angle on the Arts: Reimagining Culture in a Time of Transformation" – a day of discussions and performances exploring the role of art and artistic expression in times of social transformation and revolutionary global change.
Different cultures, ethnicities, and social traditions can separate us. But understanding our own history and heritage and then broadening our perspectives on other cultures through education and collaboration can take us to rich, new heights and toward common ground despite our differences.
Listen to excerpts from the CD called “Chamber Music” as performed by Ballaké Sissoko (an African musician playing a traditional lute-harp from Mali called the kora) and Vincent Segal (a French musician playing the classical cello) at the Ford Foundation conference.
Through the music of Sissoko and Segal, you’ll hear and experience quite simply and enjoyably exactly what I’m talking about – and chances are you’ll understand the importance of leading through and with diversity in today’s global world faster and deeper than you might from a lecture, essay, or class on the topic.
“Chamber Music” has been reviewed as “one of Europe’s most buzzed-about world music recording.” It is also a clear and powerful illustration of fusion without loss, synergy without dominance, differences as the springboard to innovation, shared leadership through true collaboration, and globalization without fear.