I’m not an artist – I never have been and never thought I could see myself that way (I can barely draw a recognizable stick figure).
Then, I heard of a movement in the business world to transform our concept of leaders into designers. After thinking about it, I see distinct differences between the two – differences that, if embraced by leaders, could transform the way we lead.
The basic question is: as leaders, what would happen if we began to view ourselves as designers?
Designers are innovative. They do not get stuck inside a box of practicality or realism. They create. They form new from old and new from nothing. They can see through structures and institutions. Designers see no walls or boundaries. They do not mold their thinking to fit certain specifications. They dream big and find a way for those “specifications” to find a home in their design.
Designers also keep others in mind – their designs are worth nothing if they are not usable by others.
I recently heard a story that exemplifies this:
A woman was jetlagged after a long day of flying. She trucked through the airport with her suitcase in tow until her suitcase instantly felt like it weighed 500 pounds and was stuck in quicksand. Low and behold, she was dragging her roller suitcase through an area of nice, plush (and probably very expensive) carpet. She immediately thought of the janitors and cleaning staff who had to push and tug vacuums through this quicksand day in and day out. She wondered, why hadn’t the designer considered this before installing the carpet? That specific designer may not have kept others in mind when checking off installation requirements from their check list.
Are we sometimes guilty of the very same thing as leaders? Do we implement new programs or set up new processes that let us check items off our list but fail to focus on the members of our organizations, those who have to abide by the processes or programs?
I want to create with others in mind. So, as leaders, let’s be artists. Better yet, let’s be designers.
Let’s get rid of our coveted check lists and structures and think of the people – the users. Bringing out the designer in all of us just might make us better leaders. It just might inspire those around us to create solutions with others in mind instead of continuing with old processes or dated approaches to solving problems.
Kailey Slone is a Stelos enthusiast. She supports the Virginia Moore Chi Omega Scholarship and works as part of the Housley Principled Leadership Program curriculum and delivery team. She lives in small town with her furry sidekick, Quigley – and is (im)patiently waiting for her wedding in November!