Edgar Degas has slipped into my writing once again. The National Gallery of Art recently exhibited his work and that of fellow Impressionist Mary Cassatt while telling the story of how they influenced each other. “In Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey” there is a large area in the upper right hand corner with smudges and shadows visible where Degas redrew one of the horses. Most obviously, a rump and a tail. Degas didn’t try to hide it. As a result, the work came alive and I engaged fully with it. But the transparency had another interesting effect on me…
I trusted him more as an artist because I could see his process.
I’ve seen leaders who unnecessarily keep their reasoning hidden when initiating change or a change in direction—a redrawing of sorts. Or leaders who make the mistake of not sharing their reasoning because they don’t think it matters. It does. People want to understand the larger context. They want to understand your process. They are also listening to hear if their interests are considered. And, they have a very practical question in mind as you communicate: “does it make sense?”
We can’t be 100% transparent in all contexts but we can double check our assumptions if our tendency is to minimize the importance of sharing our thinking or our tendency is to withhold.
Learn from Degas. Don’t try to hide your redrawing. After all, every leadership role requires us to continually be drawing and redrawing while building on our earlier work.
U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240
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