I read an article this morning about strategic leadership by a peer from my graduate alma mater City University, London. The individual talked about successful strategic leadership that is predicated on a heartfelt mission; a mission which has values close to the hearts of those employed to lead and fulfill that mission.
I am in the arts, nonprofit at that, and I have never encountered a time when the missions I fulfilled for myself or chose to fulfill for others weren't possessing of values that were near and dear to me. Likely why I am so poor financially but so rich in every other way...not a bad place to be really;)
The peer pointed to Richard Branson and Steve Jobs as model strategic leaders who want(ed) to 'change the world' and concluded that is why their models are so successful. From a heartfelt and financial standpoint, they are quintessential strategic leaders.
But we cannot all be Richard Bransons or Steve Jobs' and most of us who produce art or cultural or some creative commodity produce it in the nonprofit sector, not the corporate sector.
No matter how successful financially and mission-wise a nonprofit is, paying the bills and running in the black, even if its an even bottom line, is a huge accomplishment but it doesn't yield the same financial returns that what the Bransons and the Jobs of the world produce. Never forget the sectors of the creative industries that do not struggle with this problem quite as much as others-Broadway, Hollywood, the Music Recording Industry, Professional Sports, Big City Tourism, Established Fashion Design. The list is rather endless and though I don't begrudge anyone their success, let's call a spade a spade.
While I want to continue for my work to mean something to me at the very least, to be purposeful and inspiring and motivating for others, I have encountered more recently that this kind of 'heartfelt' strategic leadership just isn't the most appropriate place for me or smaller nonprofits I have been involved with to work solely from.
I agree that no work I do or others produce, whether for the nonprofit or corporate world to succeed, can be bereft of heart. However a healthy dose of pragmatism and common sense about the value others place on a mission is equally important. I believe that is what Jobs and Branson and others like them understand and why they are so successful in their endeavours. Michael Kaiser, Former President of the Kennedy Center had a great phrase that sums this up rather decently, at least respective of the arts...'Good Art, Well Marketed.'
Of course the monkey in the wrench is a classic Aaron Sorkinism....'the problem with common sense is that it's common.'
Which leaves me, you and anyone else that produces art or culture or creatives with one question...