I was sitting in the crowd marveling at the speakers, their accomplishments, and how they guide people to inspiration and action. Imposter Syndrome was immediate, “What am I doing here? I’m not like them. I’m not a leader like they are.” But as I relaxed and started to really think about it, we can all be leaders regardless of where we are on our creative journey. In fact, it’s our responsibility to wear the label of creative leader at all times; for ourselves and for others.
Six Levels of Leadership:
- Leadership starts with yourself.
- It extends to your team and family.
- It is rooted in the industry or creative pursuits you excel at.
- It ripples outward into the broader creative community.
- It reaches into culture and society.
- It has the potential to impact the world.
As we think about the levels of leadership, I think about how to to cultivate creative leadership. I think it is the intersection and impact of what you think, what you say, what you do, and how you make others feel.
Thoughts / What You Think
“In How Successful People Think, John C. Maxwell says this about thinking and leadership: “A person who knows how may always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be [their] boss” (p. ix).
He continues, “Those who develop the process of good thinking can rule themselves” (p. ix).
“How to become a better thinker:
1. Expose Yourself to Good Input
2. Expose Yourself to Good Thinkers
3. Choose to Think Good Thoughts
4. Act on Your Good Thoughts
5. All Your Emotions to Create Another Good Thought
6. Repeat the Process” (pp. xi-xiv).
Being a creative leader means you are in control of your thoughts.
Voice / What You Say
Todd Henry in Louder Than Words describes voice as “the expression (idea) you make through a medium (platform) in order to achieve a desired outcome (impact)” (p. 3).
He continues, “Taken together, your collective body of work, as communicated through your voice, represents you, your style, your values, and your intentions” (p. 3).
“Truly effective voices resound, meaning that others eventually become carriers of your expression” (p. 3).
Leadership is about authenticity in your expression, but also what you literally say.
“Don’t project (and protect) an image of who you think you ought to be while abandoning your authentic self” (p. 5).
There is an embedded responsibility in our words, not only in the expression of our creativity and the resulting body of work, but the words we literally say.
Is there a contradiction between your work and your words?
Action / What You Do
Effective leadership is about taking decisive action to bring a vision alive. Vision is forged through the process of reflection and communication and brought to life through action.
Leaders do what they say they’re going to do.
When they make mistakes, the own them.
They share success with those responsible for it.
They don’t let the wrong action change their thoughts or words.
Connection / How You Make Others Feel
Leadership is about more than yourself. Effective leaders challenge, praise, correct, and empower as projects unfold. Leadership can seem easy when times are great, but the best leaders shine when struggle, failure, and hardships are prevalent. They help their team feel that they can overcome anything and everything.
And this is where a lot of leadership fails.
- You are a leader; don’t let Imposter Syndrome stop you from owning it.
- Start with yourself and branch outward.
- Build up your thoughts, voice, action, and connection.
- Never lose your sense of humor or humility.
- Bend Design
- How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by John C. Maxwell
- Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice by Todd Henry
- Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash
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