Making Things Makes Us Better Leaders
Good leaders see past their tasks to become stewards of what might be.
One of my favorite things about the annual Maker Faire is not just the scale and scope of the inventions shown -- which are awesome -- but also how it always inspires me to make something of beauty and function. This also makes me anxiously wonder why it’s so much easier to just consume things instead, shutting out that need-to-create part of our souls. In our online-connected, mobile-purchased, free-delivery society do we still need to create and make things?
I hope so, because it’s good for our souls, and it’s good for the organizations and the people we work with.
If I want a piece of fine art for my home, I’ll visit a gallery and buy a thing of beauty made by a talented artist. But if I want to jump headlong into a soulful creative process, then I’ll play with color and form with paint or fabric. I’m not worried about technique, “doing it right” or even if it’s beautiful. I just want to create. When you want a secure and safe home for your family you hire a trusted contractor. If you want the joy and adventure of creating a play space for your kids, then build a tree house.
The act of creation, whether it’s brushing paint on a canvass or hammering nails to build a tree house, is really about creating beauty for yourself, and also sharing it with others. Good business leaders understand that too.
We generally think of the creative process of making or discovering something as a solitary process, like the artist in a sun-soaked garret or that lone-wolf inventor working tirelessly in their garage.
Yet the art of creation is really a function of collaboration. We think of Thomas Edison as the inventor of the light bulb, phonograph and hundreds of other innovations. But his greatest credit is creating the concept of a collaborative research organization, assembling and harnessing diverse talents focused on solving problems. Generations later his concept went on to inspire Bell Labs, Xerox PARC and today’s innovation powerhouses such as Apple and Google.
As business leaders, when we aspire to innovate and create value, what we’re really building is a team of collaborators. Leaders surround themselves with a diverse team of strong performers who, when teamed with others, build amazing things -- products, organizations, markets and even legacies.
This proven approach guide us to assemble a team of motivated people with diverse skills and perspectives. Make sure to Include some non-conformists who are committed to a common vision and you’ll be surprised by what happens.
Building something to leave behind.
We all have an inborn urge to create, to make, to build -- whether it’s an object, a team or an opportunity for people to succeed. It feeds our souls to create something that wasn’t there when we arrived and to leave part of us behind when we move on.
Ask your hard working, top performers why they stay with your firm -- even when they might make more money with a competitor -- and they’ll tell you, “I’m building something here.” When someone retires after years of service, ask them what they’re most proud of and they’ll likely say, “I’m priviledge to have created a team that will continue our success and our mission.” These folks are creators and builders -- good leaders who see past their tasks to become stewards of what might be.
As school kids, many of us read that famous Will Allen Dromgoole poem, The Bridge Builder. You know it. The old traveler who, crossing a “chasm vast and deep,” turns back and builds a bridge. Why? For an unknown youth who might yet face that pitfall, “I build that bridge for him.”
As you lead your enterprise, find that bridge that brings you soul-filling satisfaction and joy. Then guide your team to build it, and they’ll know how to share it with others down the road. That’s something of beauty worth creating.