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How Do Leadership Skills Enhance Creativity Within the Arts to Motivate Excellence?

Info: 3533 words (14 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019

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Tagged: ArtsLeadership

How do leadership skills enhance creativity within the Arts to motivate excellence?

The arts are any field that requires the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination (Oxford Dictionary, 2017), alliance states that this field has the power as an engine of personal, social and cultural transformation (The Alliance, 2017).  Throughout the arts there are many roles necessary to motivate those individuals within the arts to reach excellence, whilst building stronger connections with their audiences, communities and each other.  These leadership roles may consist of but are not limited to: a manager, a producer or a director. This essay will discuss the dynamics of effective leadership skills, provide an analysis of some of the ‘major players’ in the arts industry, and explore possible leadership techniques that support and inspire creativity, leading to excellence.

“The definition of leadership is the art of influencing a body of people to follow a certain course of action; the art of controlling them, directing them and getting the best out of them.  A major part of leadership is Man-Management.” (W. Cookson JR., 2009)

In traditional times leadership was defined with three principles: Interpersonal, Influence, and the end goal but in modern times it has evolved to three main principles being primarily focused on relationships, mutual visions and working together as collaborators. (Hudson, 2014)This contemporary definition shows that the leader is now influenced by the collaborators or followers and they work together sharing common goals and connections.  Prior to this in the 1940s the trait theory states “if someone had true leadership traits they could lead regardless of the situation” (Hersey, 2016).  The current theories would beg to differ that people are born to lead or not, without the option to learn.  We now live in a generation whereas it is believed any one can achieve anything (Byrne, 2006).  There are numerous styles of leadership such as: Autocratic, Democratic, Strategic, Transformational, Team, Cross-Cultural, Facilitative, Laissez-faire Leadership, Transactional, Coaching, Charismatic and Visionary (Raza, 2017).  By combining the knowledge of the artist personality, the specific creative style, plus mix and matching these leadership styles you can narrow down the most effective method to motivating excellence.  Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory shows that it is of upmost importance to approach each situation and character differently, there is no perfect formula. Leadership is no longer just seen as power but a practice that goes both ways (Hersey, 2016).

“Everyone who aspires to strength should consciously practice listening, regularly.  Every week, set aside an hour to listen to somebody who might have something to say that will be of interest.  It should be conscious practice in which all of the impulses to argue, inform, judge, and “straighten out” the other person are denied (Mase, 2013).  What is gathered from the statement Carol Mase made is that it is just as important to listen as it is to make demands.  This supports the theory that many of the traditional practices are no longer of relevance in the 21st century (PhD, 2017).

Core leadership skills are those commonly called ‘born leaders’ will naturally have then the adaptive leadership practices suggests that the leaders that exceed and rise above the average will have the skills, character, development, organization, and emotional intelligence traits shown below (Bradberry, 2012).

“Coaching skills for the artist manager are closely related to those of leadership.  Leadership seeks to guide the broader, long term goals for the artist career, but coaching involves short-term work toward an outcome that improves the artistry of the artist” (Allen, 2007). ../../../Desktop/Screen%20Shot%202017-10-24%20at%2023.11.25.png In sports athletes are coached and trained to perform better with each performance being faster and stronger with more endurance.  Coach Mills used this ‘practice makes perfect’ method to develop the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt (Digital track & field, 2014).  Malcolm Gladwell, in his book outliers analyses how the top 75 richest people in the 19th century attained success and realised the link between patterned practice and excellence.  Gladwell points out in the 10,000-hour theory that “practice is a key factor in the success of outliers”(Gladwell, 2009).  Meaning, although the myth exist that some individuals are born with ‘natural’ talents, practice still must be factored into their successes.  Two of those individuals out of the 75 were creatives John Lennon and Bill Gates, John states “we got better and got more confidence.  We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long” (Baer, 2014).  So, this suggests that athletes and people within the arts can potentially be experts in their craft after having 10,000 hours of practice, but looking further into this rule it seems that there is more to the formula to reach ‘excellence’ and creative mastery in the arts.  This is where the leader’s strategy, action, and results comes into play.

“Psychological research actually indicates expertise is developed based on the way you practice, rather than the time you devote” (Loria, 2017).

Research shows that it is the leaders belief that allows the individual in the arts regardless of field to exceed his/her own expectations.  “the universe is limitless, abundant, and strangely accommodating” (Grout, 2014).  Timothy Gallwey in “the inner game of tennis said “If a coach can help a player to remove or reduce the internal obstacles to his performance, an unexpected natural ability to learn and to perform will occur without the need for much technical input from the coach”(Gallwey, 2015).  Leaders should adapt and advance along with the progress of their followers, once a certain level of skill is attained the leader can then coach them to further improvements.  “Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance” (Whitmore, 2009).    Coaching is a skill that a leader will possess along with being able to mentor.  A mentor is an older person that passes down knowledge, a coach teaches the student “to get out of their own way” regardless of the field/expertise.  One proven way to help the mentee attain this excellence is to use the approach in sports, which requires dedication, training, and results, but this may or may not lead to enhanced creativity especially in an artist.

Where most artist may differ from sportspeople is in their personality traits.  An athlete in the sports sector is a different man from an individual in the arts.  To lead mankind, you must know the traits of that specific character, both their weaknesses and strengths.  In the arts creativity, along with passion is needed to inspire excellence, before discussing the artist personality first it is important to define what creativity actually is.

“Creative thinking means thinking about new things or thinking in new ways. It is “thinking outside the box” (Doyle, 2017).

Many artists that excel in the arts have an unconditional love for their craft which will be prioritised over anything else.  Therefore, to understand this a manager must look at who the individual in the arts is and what drives them.  For instance, there are 4 types of creativity: Expressive, Productive, Inventive, and Innovative (Robinson, 2001).  These cover expressing feelings and ideas like kids painting without real skill being necessary, productive expression when developing new ideas for yourself but not new to other people, inventive whereas the artist finds new ways to express old concepts, and innovative where individuals start to expand upon ideas in their field and reach new levels of understanding and finally, emergent creativity has been reached by the likes of Einstein and Newton, where their principles changed human kinds perceived realities.  By developing an understanding of the difference in artist from: actors and performers, to painters and sculptures a personal development plan can be drawn regardless of the specific sector.  According to (Carroll, 2012), personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.

An artist top ten wants on a job are creativity, artistic work, communicative, variety, friendship at work, learning new things, money, a challenge, recognition and time freedom (Evans and Evans, 2013).  Artist tend be intuitive, looking beyond what they can see, hear, feel, taste and touch, they look at the big picture and question everything.  This imaginative thinking leads them to having more unrealistic goals than the average, but at the same time gives them the creative input needed for creative output.  It is not often that artist reach complete stardom but some seem to stand out and achieve goals much greater than the average act.  For example, Adele’s Manager Jonathan Dickins was named manager of the year in November 2016.  Adele praises Jonathan for leading her to such greatness and having faith or belief in the same goal as her.  As Andy Malt says “Management is about sharing an artists’ vision and delivering it and Jonathan delivered the last part of the trilogy with exemplary skill” (Malt, 2016).  The keyword here is vision and brings us to the popular quote by Benjamin franklin ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.  An artist mind is different; they tend to switch task often when the passion is lost, which is why they chose the profession they did, to have freedom to be continuously creative. “variety is the lifeblood of the performer and creative artist” (Evans and Evans, 2013, P.4).  A leader should possess the skills necessary to enhance the artist creativity which can happen by creating a sympathetic environment (Evans and Evans, 2013).  The order of creativity is known as preparation, incubation, and then illumination; some of these steps happen unconsciously so if the mind is unorganized it may be blocked from the free flow of ideas.  Organisation of the chaos can be rectified via: inner replay, aloneness, inactivity, daydreaming, free thinking, gullibility, alertness, and disciplined productivity.  The manager for example could clear samples to allow the producer to continue their creative journey or an engineer can set up a project with guide vocals and backing tracks prior to their arrival so that the mind of that specific individual in the arts is free.  It can be overlooked but the human brain can only handle so much information at a time, it can be compared to a computer’s hard drive in which when it has many different programs running simultaneously it begins to slow down and possibly crash.  “The processing power of the brain has been estimated as 126 bits per second (Miller, 1956).  The ‘Zone of Optimal Functioning’ is when they are ‘in the moment’ performing at an automatic level, without need for conscious thought and direction”(M. Nideffer, no date) and it can be attained via this sympathetic environment.  By creating confidence via positive feedback, trust via helping set goals and the artist reaching them, and intrinsic motivation via integrity and being the artist leader for pure reasons rather than self-gain purposes. (QUOTE)

Research shows that everyone can be defined and narrowed down to their exact personality type, which gives insight to their character traits and tendencies. “In the 1960s Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Briggs incorporated his theories into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, which is now a widely-used personality test” (Evans and Evans, 2013, p.6).  As the definition provided above by (Balance) states creativity is ‘thinking outside of the box’.  Therefore, a test that attempts to put an artist in a box and is not supported by psychology should not be used to categorise individuals in the arts.  “Generally, although not completely unscientific, the MBTI gives a ridiculously limited and simplified view of human personality, which is a very complex and tricky concept to pin down and study” (Burnett, 2013).  Thus, both defining personality and stimulated creativity are complex and tasks that can be approached in numerous ways.  But due to the way leadership has changed and become adaptive, the leader can work and grow simultaneously with the individual at hand.  There is always room for improvement.  (Adaptive leadership) Per the BBC, artists have structurally different brains that continue to change and develop as they continue consistent work in their specific field.  “It falls into line with evidence that focus of expertise really does change the brain. The brain is incredibly flexible in response to training and there are huge individual differences that we are only beginning to tap into” (Hogenboom, 2014).

Peak Performance

“But perhaps because creativity was considered unmanageable—too elusive and intangible to pin down—or because concentrating on it produced a less immediate payoff than improving execution, it hasn’t been the focus of most managers’ attention.” (Amabile and Khaire, 2008)

Although creativity has been considered unmanageable there are still way to enhance this creativity.  Creating a comfortable sympathetic environment is one way but the opposite is also effective, through pushing an artist out of their ‘comfort zone’.  Being comfortable can cause creative energies to remain stagnant, getting the same result every time.  A producer may lead for example by reminding an artist of some sort of inner conflict they have, whether it may be a recent loss or resentment towards an individual that has done them wrong, it may seem cruel but can often result in them giving more of themselves than they normally do, it can also work vice versa.  By allowing an artist to reflect upon recent accomplishments or positive events in their life can result in a breakthrough and creative stimulation.  Once further achievements are made the leader can continue to give the artist positive affirmation, which will lead to even greater confidence.  Self-Esteem expresses how we value ourselves and can greatly effect an artist in the performing arts.  One of the main concerns for singers and dancers can be what western society media sees of their body image but ingenious ways can be made to reframe the ideology and create confidence. For instance, lets take a look a Meghan Trainor. (QUOTE)

Supporting the individual within the arts is also a major, artist have both highs and lows.  These can be tragedies, bad habits, or simply not being able to deal with a recent failure.  Bad habits that are quite common in the arts industry are recreational drug use for example: The Beatles or F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Proof They seemed to believe drugs as their gateway to unlock the gates of their perception but “Dependency is by its nature a restriction on freedom of action” (leadership performance) An artist usually does not have the perspective to see what’s coming around the corner, thus their leader should be the eyes and ears from the balcony, with the right perspective to provide insight and to keep them on track.  “Everybody has some tumultuous thing that happens in their career.  The way you rebound from that is what makes you who you are.” usher- Chris brown:Welcome to my life

Also, a leader can instil vision within the artist by asking the right questions, for example: where do you see yourself in five or ten years.  By doing so the artist must reflect and evaluate themselves after every milestone.  “Just as preparation and practice are critical to developing physical skills to the point that they can be performed automatically, so to is preparation and practice of the mental skills that go into automating problem solving, the flow of ideas, and the identification of new ways to think about and/or do things” (Steptoe, 1998).

“So Leaders for the future need to have values and vision and to be authentic and agile, aligned and on purpose.  Add awareness and responsibility to the mix, self-belief, and a good measure of emotional intelligence, and we have a powerful recipe” (Whitmore, 2009, p.197)


What am I trying to say in this essay?

To conclude, based on the findings of carl jung leading to the MBTI system along with those findings that argue that due to the complexities within individuals in the arts minds, that adaptive leadership is the best route to take to enhance creativity and develop individuals to a level of excellence.  To do so, each case should be approached differently, although MBTI shows that we as mankind share many similarities we also develop and grow at different rates and take different directions.  “you have to go to that broken place of your heart to write songs, they say sometimes its like open heart surgery making music” Lady GaGa

Artist consistenly make themselves vunerable thus the leader should be prepared and able to adapt when necessary.  The leader can help having a certain level of IQ and emotional intelligence. “ Emotional Intelligence is the measure of an individual’s abilities to recognise and manage their emotions, and the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups.”


By mastering oneself one can help another to master themselves.  “One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” (Da Vinci) Taking into consideration the leadership principles discussed and the understanding of personalities of people within the arts along with the techniques to enhance their creativity it is still difficult to judge whether it motivates excellence.  Excellence and creativity can be two opposing forces.  Excellence in the arts can be subjective and contrary to creativity.  The artist may feel accomplished after an artistic endeavour, venturing to depths that they have not gone and creating innovative projects whilst the manager, producer, director, or whoever is ‘leading’ may only agree that their feat has reached ‘excellence’ once it has accumulated a specific number of streams, sold a specific number, or reached an equivalence to some sort of ‘excellence standard’ which cannot be defined, and if so it is not known by whom.  So it may not reach excellence but it seems to certainly motivate greatness(excellence) in an individual, group, or company.  That being said, leadership skills should be considered but vary depending on the individual followers.

Use this to describe how learning from failure can help you attain excellence, and give an example…


“Research in to right and left hemisphere activity in musicians shows that as they become increasingly professional their left brain critical activity increases and they may progressively lose the kind of innocent pleasure found in amateur music-lovers (Shuter-Dyson and Gabriel, 1968)

The Flow state is when the performers skill level and the challenge match up and they harmonize, for example a drummer in ‘the groove’ can be considered ‘in the pocket’ similar to tom brady coach yelling from the sideline to stay in the pocket, that zone: protected, aware and with the greatest potential from that position.

Manz (1990) as well as Sims and Manz (1995) argued that being an effective super-leader in organizations requires one to become a competent self-leader first.

  • Sims, Jr., H. P., & Manz, C. C. (1995). Company of Heros: Unleasing the Power of self-leadership. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  •  Manz, C. C., & Sims, H. P. (1990). Super-leadership: Leading others to lead themselves. New York, NY: Berkeley.

Innovation and proactivity are essential facets of successful entrepreneurial behavior (DiLiello & Houghton, 2006).

  • DiLiello, T., & Houghton, J.D. (2006). Maximizing organizational leadership capacity for the future. Toward a model of self-leadership, innovation and creativity. Journal of Managerial Psychology , 21 (4), 319-337.



Steptoe, A. (Ed.) (1998). Genius and the mind. New York: Oxford University Press.


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