I recently had the chance to spend some time in focused thought, hence my recent absence from the blogging arena. Opportunities to disengage rarely come our way in today's fast paced world, it's risky: it creates the possibility of "falling off the grid" or worse, being left behind in the dust of others trudging ahead chasing the proverbial carrot. Every Artistic Leader needs a chance to step back and evaluate, refresh and clarify what it is they are about.
So why not just follow the raging current and move with the work? Well, there are a few reasons:
What if the work is really a distraction? So often we think a creative idea is so great, it warrants our effort, time, and attention. We need clarity to filter which ideas get our attention, which we save for later, and some that just need to be pursued by others because they simply don't fit. It is essential to have a framework by which your vision is defined. Rabbit trails are exhausting, so leave it to the rabbits!
What if you get so wrapped up in the work, you forget the vision? Did you ever spend so much time on a project, deeply engaged in the act of doing to the point you forget WHY you are doing it in the first place? An artist can become so focused on the act of creating, he may just forget what it is he is trying to create. Don't do this! Plan your work, work your plan. Mark milestones so you know when to stop, celebrate, and evaluate what has been accomplished. This also gives you time to reassess. Have you ever been lost, passed your exit, realize after hours of driving you have no idea of where you are? This is a scary feeling. It is a frightening experience for your team when they realize they have been following a leader who hasn't a clue where they are or where they're going.
What if the work drowns you? Failure is defeating but don't get defeated! No, that isn't a typo. Failure is the best learning tool available, you just have to fine tune the art of failing gracefully. You will experience failure. My hope for my children is they know and understand that disappointment will happen, it is how you handle your failures which makes the difference in what type of leader you are. When I was in 3rd grade, my Art Teacher explained "happy accidents". She showed us one of her own paintings and was clear to show us a lantern she painted on the exterior of a beautiful Victorian home. She explained the lantern was not intended to be there at all, but while she was painting, a drop of black ink fell on the canvas. Wiping it would have created a large smear and there is no eraser for ink. Instead of scrapping the project, admitting defeat, she turned the ink blot into a quaint lantern. Artistic Leaders do fall, but they make it look like a dance.
The bottom line is Artistic Leaders need clarity, great success require preparation, thought, and management. Momentum is a great morale booster as long as it doesn't lead you away from your vision. Purposeful breaks, focused retreats, or a ever so brief pause can launch new energy and passion for your craft.