Visual Art Can Make You a Better Leader

By 12 February 2016Change

In the past few months at Talent Futures we have developed a way to help leadership teams break from their assumptions in their work, and to strengthen their relationships and ability to influence across the organisation and their industry.

The Art of Leadership is an optional component of Talent Futures London-based leadership team events.  In cooperation with consultant art historian,
Charlotte de Mille, Talent Futures offers bespoke lunchtime visits to an art
museum to further the agility of leadership teams. 

The theme of each visit is suggested by the
facilitator, based on the team’s organisational context, and is agreed with the
team in advance.  Charlotte de Mille then
designs a personalised tour for 90 minutes at a museum close to the event venue.

Prior to these events, a team may consider the museum visit as “down
time” during the workshop.  However,
the works chosen and the discussion about those works give the team opportunity
to experience and discuss art that, while unrelated to their work, is directly
related to their learning objectives.  Themes from previous clients include:
  • Cultural norms
  • Compliance and regulation
  • Housing and modern living

Why and how does this work?

When attention is
devoted to objects, the act stimulates reflection on our different
perspectives, informed by our personality, our past experiences, and our
present circumstances.  This act of
self-challenge is critical to developing new responses.  Back at the venue, after the tour, the
facilitator poses questions about the experience and ties the responses to the
learning objectives of the workshop.  For example:
  • A video installation about blind people
    making visual art resulted in some of the team feeling discomfort at others
    being taken advantage of, until they saw how much participants enjoyed what
    they were doing.  This underscored how matters
    of ethics can be divisive, and reminded them of an ongoing disagreement with
    another team.  They resolved to seek the
    individual views of the other team and collaborate on a solution.
  • In response to a work that challenged
    the roles of gender, race, and religion in modern society, the team were able
    to discuss the assumptions they made about diversity in the workplace and their
    team in particular.    

Outcomes

In post-workshop review discussions, the following outcomes of The Art of Leadership events have been
noted:

  • Discussing art with colleagues means
    each person takes a risk in sharing thoughts that are purely opinion and
    observation; no logic is involved.  This
    shared vulnerability brings people together and tensions subside.
  • The way to influence people with opinions
    different from ours is through listening, not logic.
  • The importance of validating others’
    opinions and understanding others’ perceptions increases in significance
  • Once assumptions are broken, the door to
    more creativity and a better strategy opens.  
  • Black-and-white thinking is spotted
    quickly, and the experience stretches the thinking of participants.  It becomes possible to consider other ways of
    looking at things without risking reputation.  
  • Discussing “What is and isn’t art,”
    leads to “what is and isn’t leadership,” and “what is and isn’t the way to get things
    done in the organisation.”  

To learn more about The Art of Leadership events, please contact us at askacoach@talentfutures.com.