Leadership: Creating a Masterpiece

We stood in the clean lines and intimate space of the Phillips Collection listening to a teacher talking to high school girls. The girls, dressed in their white shirts and black-and-white plaid skirt uniforms, stood in a semi-circle looking at one of Edward Degas’ famous works: Dancers at the Barre.

This particular composition of two dancers—he often repeated a figure or figures with variations—is painted in vibrant colors. “Degas worked and reworked his paintings. You can see the smudges here by the legs that indicate it,” the teacher said.  She showed her class pictures of the painting taken with special equipment. These revealed that he had painted a single leg multiple times as he tried one position, then another. This theme of continual reworking permeated the exhibition.

You, too, have created a masterpiece.

Hundreds and thousands of decisions, honed by application and experience. Working and reworking to create today’s reality and point the way to your future. There is brilliance and artistry in how you lead your business and your life.

If, while coaching you or consulting for your company, I tell you where I am observing your leadership mastery, I can predict your pause. It’s inevitable for all but the supremely confident or arrogant.

For some, the pause is due to new information. For other it is humility.  My observation will be followed by a “yes, but” or some minimizing comment. Like Degas, you see where you think the composition needs to be reworked or you will attribute the brilliance to others’ work.

Stop it.  Stop it right now.

For this, too, is something you have mastered but it is an insidious art form—one that diminishes your exquisite artistic ability. It doesn’t serve your business, your employees, or you.

You can start with something simple, as one of my amazing colleagues did: For months this individual practiced saying “Thank you” to any affirmation or compliment another person made. That was followed by advanced training, which involved saying “Thank you, I think so too.”

 Enjoy your masterpiece, your artistry now. Yes, even as you choose an aspect you’d like to repaint.


U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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