Art of leadership

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

That leadership requires authenticity is a cliché, but here’s what makes it true.

Last year, William Baker, director of a center for media education at Fordham, went to an exhibit of painter Renoir.

The paintings were nice enough, but he was underwhelmed. “What’s the big deal about Renoir?” he thought.

Only later did Baker learn that the initial public response to Renoir’s work had been quite the opposite. Those pastel paintings of plump bourgeois people had inspired rage, hatred and mockery.

The reason was the authenticity of Renoir’s subjects. Parisians of the 1880s were just as unhappy as anybody else who is portrayed accurately. Nobody likes seeing themselves as they really are.

Baker took away two lessons:

  1. Even when it’s unpopular, you can’t sacrifice truth if you expect to lead. Your followers have to be able to trust you.
  2. Renoir outlasted his critics and gave the world something valuable because authenticity is about playing the long game.

— Adapted from Every Leader is an Artist, William F. Baker & Michael O’Malley, McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

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