If Activism is Art, then Honey, You’re an Artist
I talk a lot about what separates good leaders from great leaders. We know it when we see it. Good leaders get the job done, but great leaders inspire us to be the best version of ourselves. Their innovation, grounded spirit, and self-assuredness are contagious.
So, what is it that makes these people so magnetic? So alluring? So unique?
I think there are many answers to that question, and I don’t profess to know them all. But, what I do know, is that these great leaders are, at their core, artists. Their art is their very presence, and their ability to share themselves and their message with the world.
This is relevant for anyone who wants to spread their message effectively.
I was at a training a few months ago with a man who has been called many things– a master facilitator, a coach, a mentor, and even a guru. He deals in systems, processes, and structures, as much as with hearts, music, and energy. All in all, he is an inspiring leader to be in the presence of. I wish I could absorb even half of his wisdom.
These qualities that he exhibits have come from a lifetime of practice in different methodologies, which is to say, he has honed his craft. People don’t usually rise to greatness on accident.
Working as an artist is about the process of creating, not just the finished piece. It takes commitment, discipline, time, patience, and deep passion for what you do, whether or not anyone else happens to be paying attention. I come from a long line of artists who painted because their souls had to, not because fame or attention were even remote possibilities.
Similarly, finding your footing as an activist and social justice leader takes time, patience, and a commitment to the journey. Often, our fights are long and enduring, striving for changes in policy, culture, and the hearts and minds of the public.
The message to work for change may come from your soul, but the work actually happens day in and day out, whether or not it feels as if progress is being made.
Looking at your work as a masterpiece constantly in the process of being created, and reconnecting to that inner fire, might help to alleviate some of the burnout associated with the long haul.
So, with your artist hat on (beret or otherwise…), I pose some questions:
– What is calling out from your soul to be brought into creation?
– If you think of yourself as an artist, how does that change your expression of leadership?
– Who are your muses?
– What routines and practices do you need to fully live as your artist-self?
– What do you need to stay motivated in the face of blocks?
For example, the labor movement may be your canvas, and racial justice your paintbrush. That is an upward battle for sure, but what a beautiful and stunning place to create change within change. What do you need to feel in love with your work?
Or, perhaps reproductive rights is your arena, and the up and coming leaders of that movement are your muses. There is some fierce justice happening in that space right now, so how do you want to add your art to the mix?
I love picturing myself, colleagues, friends, and clients as artists. How freeing!
This work we do can be so heavy. Taking a few minutes to re-invent your persona, or tap into that inner artist, can be welcome respite.
I want to do this work from a place of inspiring, innovative, effective, jaw-dropping, and mastered creativity. Want to join me?