Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Courage to Create and Courage to Lead A Case Study of Artistic Leader Toni Morrison

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Courage to Create and Courage to Lead A Case Study of Artistic Leader Toni Morrison

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This manuscript discusses an expanded view of leadership theory using an artistic perspective linking art, creativity and leadership. To understand the intersection of creativity and leadership a case study of Toni Morrison the writer is presented. The framework for looking at creativity in leaders and understanding the artistic leader is based on the work of developmental psychologist Howard Gardner. Patterns and implications for leadership development and research are discussed.

Words like art, creativity, and leadership have been closely linked in our society. Researchers and scholars like Simonton, 1984 and Gardner, 1993, 1995 have acknowledge that effective leaders are creative and value creativity in others. Works by leadership scholars Depree, 1987, 1992; Bolman & Deal, 1995 strengthen our understanding of the connection between art and leadership. Because of the work of scholars and researchers, leadership can be studied and viewed, like art and creativity, as a process instead of discrete practices (DeCiantis, 1995). Also from the perspective of viewing leadership as a process, new avenues for exploring leadership are revealed. With this in mind, leadership can be studied from the artistic perspective. Instead of focusing only on procedures and functions of leadership, like so much of the traditional studies of leadership, the creative nature of leadership can be examined. According to Simonton (1984), understanding creativity in noteworthy leaders may be just as important as comprehending creativity in creators.

More important, creative and affective features such as imagination, exploration, ideas, motivations, inquiry, relationships, spirit and even love reveal fresh insights about leadership when we can study leadership as more of a process. What can artistic leaders reveal about creativity and leadership that can inform the study and development of leaders? To understand the intersection between creativity and leadership, a case study of an artistic leader, Toni Morrison, is presented in this paper. By studying a person who is an artist and a leader we can supplement the discussion and the research on the connections between art, creativity and leadership.

In this paper, traditional leadership theories, which have implications for creativity, are reviewed. This review is followed by a discussion of leadership as art. Howard Gardner's creative leaders and perspectives on artistic leadership are discussed followed by an examination of artistic leader Toni Morrison. The paper ends with a discussion of patterns and implications for leadership development.

Challenging Traditional Notions of Leadership

Traditional theories of leadership focus on the classic or formal models of leadership. For example, three widely known classical studies of behavioral theories of leadership which occurred at the University of Iowa in 1939, at Ohio State University in 1957, and at the University of Michigan in 1961 all classified and measured the effects of leader behavior on productivity and job satisfaction (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 1991). Such theories provided a model of appropriate leadership behavior for a given situation reflecting the behaviorist orientations of the times. These theories however, failed to give us any insight into how creativity may have influenced the leader's or the follower's behavior.

Fiedler's Contingency Model, a more popular view of leadership, focused on the match between leader motivation, leader behavior and the situation (Fiedler & Chemers, 1984). This model describes the degree to which the leader controls and influences the situation (Fiedler & Chemers, 1984). However, little attention was given to how leaders use their creativity to make or manage meaning of a situation or the extent to which the leader adapts his/her behavior. House's Path-Goal Theory explained how leaders influence subordinates' perception of work goals, personal goals and goal attainment (House, 1971). …

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