This article become a long one, so I split it into three parts. Enjoy!

“I don’t have time to do something as frivolous as making art! That’s a luxury I can’t afford!”

Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking something like that? If so, you’re not alone.

I spent most of my life avoiding creative pursuits — sheesh, even during the fifteen years when I made my living as an artist, I found myself saying “I don’t have time to make art!”

Oh, I made art for my clients all day long. But if it wasn’t to meet a deadline, or to put bread on the table, I convinced myself that engaging in creative pursuits was a “frivolous waste of time.”

It may sound silly, but here I was, an artist, unable to allow myself to make art!

Suffice it to say that I understand the internal barriers that get in the way for people who don’t identify as artists.

(Because here’s a secret: before I identified as an artist, I identified as a “non-artist”!)

“I don’t have time/I’m too busy.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“This is a waste of time.”

“If it’s not going to [make money/win awards/impress people/etc.], why bother?”

“It’s too late for me [to get good/to achieve X goal], so why start now?”

“I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

These are just a few barriers that spring to mind. Do any resonate for you?

A Surprising Truth

While it’s easy for any of us to let these barriers stop us from making time for creativity, the truth is that far from a waste of time, artistic pursuits pay dividends by helping build the core leadership skills and traits that bold, creative leaders need most.

Here (in three parts) are 10 reasons why art is not just a pastime, but a powerful tool for developing the bold, resilient, and innovative leaders our world needs.

10 Reasons Why Bold Leaders Should Make Art (Part 1)

1. Creativity is a catalyst for innovation

Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value.

All humans are born with the capacity for creativity, but as Sir Robinson goes on to say, “not all of us develop that capacity, just as not everyone learns how to read.”

Why is creative capacity important? Because creativity is the engine that drives innovation.

The good news is that anyone can increase their creative capacity, and one way to do so is through art. 

Painting, making music, doing improv, writing poems — any artistic pursuit will do.

When you engage in artistic activities, you stimulate your brain to foster creative, out-of-the-box thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for driving innovation in any organization.

2. Artistic pursuits help develop emotional intelligence

Just a few years ago, we all saw artificial intelligence coming on the horizon. “In a decade or two, watch out,” was the feeling.

Then, suddenly, the landscape shifted dramatically. Today AI can do things that felt impossible even a year ago.

For the first time in history, white collar workers are wondering if robots will take their jobs!

“Robots can even make art now,” you may be thinking, “so why do I have to?”

Ah, but I’m not arguing for you to train to become a professional artist. (Though I still believe there is a need for humans in that role.)

No, I believe leaders should engage in artistic pursuits because art helps us strengthen the very thing that differentiates us from AI, part of which is our emotional intelligence.

Whether through music, visual art, theater, poetry, or any other form of creative expression, art is a profound way to explore and express emotions, something AI doesn’t have the ability to do.

More than anything else, leadership involves understanding and managing people, which means understanding and managing emotions is crucial for leaders.

When you practice a creative pursuit, you learn to better express and understand your own emotions, making you a more empathetic and effective communicator.

3. Artistic pursuits reduce stress and promote well-being

Pull out a one-dollar bill. There in the center you’ll see George Washington, first American president, revered commander of the Continental Army, president of the Constitutional Convention.

Washington is known for his character and leadership.

Less well known is that he also loved to dance.

Washington once described dancing as “so agreeable and innocent an amusement.” First-hand accounts say he was extremely good at it – and was always quite the center of attention.

Balls in 18th century Virginia could last from 7pm until well into the following morning. And surprising as it may sound, balls continued to be held in the colonies during the American Revolution.

“His Excellency (George Washington) and Mrs. Greene (wife of Nathaniel Greene) danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down,” wrote General Nathanael Greene to Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth, on March 19, 1779. [Read more quotes about Washington’s dancing here]

Just like Washington, as a leader, you are under pressure to perform. People count on you, and the stress can be intense.

Part of responsible leadership is developing systems and structures to manage the pressure and stress of your role in a productive manner.

Building one or more artistic pursuits into your routine can prevent burnout and promote long-term mental well-being, enabling you to perform at your best.

Of course, dance has the added benefit of being physical, and physical exercise can reduce stress whether it’s dance or any other form of movement. However, it’s important to note that non-physical art forms reduce stress and promote well-being as well.

And the extra good news is that skill level has nothing to do with the benefit: research has shown that at any skill level, making art reduces stress hormones.

The arts are the opposite of frivolous

If you want to catalyze innovation, develop emotional intelligence, reduce stress and promote well-being, engaging in one more artistic pursuits is like a one-stop shop. It’s the opposite of a “frivolous waste of time” for anyone who wants to become a better leader.

Not convinced yet? Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this series!

Looking for help getting started?

My book, The Creative Sandbox Way is designed to get even the most reluctant creative out of “stuck” and resistance and into flow. And you can download the first 50 pages for free, right here.

​Meanwhile, when you’re ready to ignite innovation by improving connection, communication, creativity, or all three, book your complimentary Impact Assessment Call and let’s chat about how I can help.


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