Art Lessons for Business Leaders

It is easy to tune the radio if the music is bad, but it is hard to avoid the impact of poor business practices on our lives.

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We all know that great artists express themselves through their art. We know instinctively that great art reflects the artist’s criteria for good, bad and great, not what the market is looking for. When we see pictures in large series and of questionable quality, we immediately acknowledge that this is commercial art done ‘for money only’ and it does not express in anyway the true soul of the author.

There are artists who refuse to create such commercial art no matter the consequences. We respect these artists and admire the risks they take to defend their creative integrity and authenticity.

If you look into the story of such great artists, you will see that everything they do is tuned in to their heart and soul. They are always driven by the need to say something to the world or to change something in it independent of whether anyone today is ready to hear it or not. These are the moments great art gets created and that is the art we admire. Great art is never created when the artist blindly continues to create what the audience is currently buying.

When and why, however, we decided that business was different?

When and why we decided that business is supposed to do things just for “money”?

When and why we decided that it is normal to produce meticulously what sells the most?

I will never forget one lecture on management during my MBA studies when the professor told us that the only raison-d’etre of a manager is to make money for the owners of the company. It resonated deep in my mind, because for me there was something significant that was missing in this definition.

Today I know that if a manager is focused solely on “making money” for the shareholders, the company would start producing bad products or services. Similarly, artists who ignore their personal values and their creative integrity produce really bad art. As we said in the beginning, it is easy to change the radio channel or turn away from a bad painting. However, it is much more difficult to ignore all the damages that such businesses bring to our lives.

If you take the time to look at the business models and strategies of great business leaders, you will notice that they are identical to the models followed by great artists.

Great business leaders have a high level of self awareness, they follow their heart and have an overwhelming desire to change something in the world around, to make a difference and not just follow what others say.

Therefore, one of the best rules for business managers to follow is Emma Thompson’s advice: “If you’re actually allowing your creative part to control your writing [work] rather than a more commercial instinct or motive, then you’ll find that all sorts of interesting things will bubble up to the surface.”

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