The news isn’t always uplifting: declining home price growth, sinking big business profits, and rising gas prices can make for an economy that is less than reassuring. How can we even start to fix it? According to Nancy Adler there is hope if we allow our passions to lead us to creative solutions and we strive towards a sense of beauty in our leadership.
“These times are riven with anxiety and uncertainty” asserts John O’Donohue.1 “In the hearts of people some natural ease has been broken. . . . Our trust in the future has lost its innocence. We know now that anything can happen. . . . The traditional structures of shelter are shaking, their foundations revealed to be no longer stone but sand. We are suddenly thrown back on ourselves. At first, it sounds completely naïve to suggest that now might be the time to invoke beauty. Yet this is exactly what . . . [we claim]. Why? Because there is nowhere else to turn and we are desperate; furthermore, it is because we have so disastrously neglected the Beautiful that we now find ourselves in such a terrible crisis.”2
Twenty-first century society yearns for a leadership of possibility, a leadership based more on hope, aspiration, innovation, and beauty than on the replication of historical patterns of constrained pragmatism. Luckily, such a leadership is possible today. For the first time in history, leaders can work backward from their aspirations and imagination rather than forward from the past.3 “The gap between what people can imagine and what they can accomplish has never been smaller.”4
Responding to the challenges and yearnings of the twenty-first century demands anticipatory creativity. Designing options worthy of implementation calls for levels of inspiration, creativity, and a passionate commitment to beauty that, until recently, have been more the province of artists and artistic processes than the domain of most managers. The time is right for the artistic imagination of each of us to co-create the leadership that the world most needs and deserves.
In an effort to determine what benefit organizations and practitioners can gain from the arts, this article examines song lyrics, drama scripts, and poems in the context of organizational development, with some useful implications for those seeking innovative approaches to business strategy. Oranuch Pruetipibultham of the University of Minnesota and Gary N. Mclean of Texas A&M University published “The Role of the Arts in Organizational Settings” in Volume 9, Issue 1 (March 2010) of Human Resource Development Review. An excerpt:
Nissley (2007) held that successful organizations have effective leaders who focus on the process of generating possibilities—thinking of new things and seeing existing
things in different ways. Therefore, we believe that it is worthwhile to explore the dynamics of narrative or storytelling (these two words are used interchangeably in
this article) and investigate how music, drama, and poetry, as forms of storytelling, can help scholars and practitioners develop a better understanding of organizational culture, effective intervention methods, and ways to develop human resources in organizations.
In her article, Adler recognizes the many crises that the world is facing today and the necessity for business to reposition itself at the forefront of society. It is important to then shift from the mythology of greed and individualism toward a global focus on our shared humanity. She challenges people to once again see beauty in reality. Through acceptance of our reality comes “the courage to envision possibility.”