Provision #710: Beauty Matters

Laser Provision

Many people think of leadership as hard work. “I wouldn’t want to be in her or his position!” is an oft-repeated refrain. That notion is reinforced whenever leaders get in trouble. Just think of the leaders in the Arab nations of northern Africa and western Asia. Who wants to be them! Closer to home, at least closer to my home, who wants to preside over looming deficits and divided constituencies? From political leaders to school leaders to church leaders, the refrain sounds like something from a Rodney Dangerfield movie: “We just don’t get no respect around here.” When times are tough, it’s tempting to see everything through the lens of enemies and struggles. But there is another side to life: beauty. Great leaders look for that beauty and make it plain. Could you do that? This Provision might help.

LifeTrek Provision

According to my Personal Interests, Attitudes, and Values (PIAV) Assessment, beauty is an odd topic for me to be writing about. My top two motivators, out of six, are relatedness (Social) and understanding (Theoretical). In the middle are rules (Traditional) and autonomy (Individualistic). At the bottom, to the point of indifference, are security (Utilitarian) and beauty (Aesthetic). 

That’s right: beauty lands at the very bottom of the list. Here, specifically, is what the report had to say:

  • Bob takes a practical approach to events.
  • Unpleasant surroundings will not stifle his creativity.
  • Bob’s passions in life will be found in one or two of the other attitudes and values discussed in this report.
  • He is a very practical person who is not sensitive to being in harmony with his surroundings.
  • The utility of “something” is more important than its beauty, form and harmony.
  • Bob is not necessarily worried about form and beauty in his environment.
  • Intellectually, Bob can see the need for beauty, but has difficulty buying the finer things in life.

Now you know why I am writing this Provision! I don’t just write about things I am good at or know well; I also write about things I want to learn and experience more fully. In my defense, none of my scores on the PIAV Assessment were outside the national mean (where 68 percent of the population scores). That means, they say, that I am well liked, a good team player, and have less conflict with other people. That’s great and rings true, but in the spectrum of my preferences, aesthetics ranked lower than the other five factors.

When it comes to getting these Provisions written every week, that’s probably a good thing. My needs for relatedness and understanding drive me to sort out my thoughts on a topic of interest (understanding) and then to share them with you (relatedness). When you reply, as many do on a weekly basis, it encourages me to keep writing and publishing. According to the PIAV, I am a naturally generous, curious, and thoughtful person. People tell me that comes through in both the quality and quantity of my writing. I appreciate that sentiment and recognize how those qualities play out in my life and work.

Take my ability to write these Provisions under just about any conditions. Riding in a car, sitting in an airport, flying in a plane, or trekking in the outback all come to mind as places and times when I have been typing or scribbling away. And then there is all that running I do, between 25-50 miles a week. That’s a lot of time, and most of it is spent on the road without any music in my ears. In addition to fitness, my running gives me time to think • and I am often thinking about my next writing project.

Lately, I have been thinking about beauty while running. How’s that for combining my top and bottom strengths! This certainly has something to do with the advent of spring. As I wrote long ago, in the poem I titled Awake, when the world comes back to life it fills us with hope, faith, and love. It makes us want to dance to the symphony of becoming, as all the bad news in the world fades before the tiniest bud or the first, unfolding flower.

I wrote about this effect a few years ago, in my Provision titled Savor Beauty. I called it running with my “eyes wide open.” Instead of putting my head down, to just focus on the training effect, I look up, out, and around in ways that reveal to me the wonders of the natural world. Unlike some people, who may score higher on the aesthetic index, that represents a conscious decision for me. I intentionally choose to look around and see something beautiful. It’s always there, if we choose to see it.

That’s also the point I have made many times in my Provisions thanks to professional photographer and motivational speaker, Dewitt Jones. Where do we choose to point the lens? Invariably, we hope to capture something uplifting and worth remembering so we point the camera in the direction of beauty. To quote Jones, “incredible things happen” when we focus our sights in that direction. We become “more open to possibility” and better able to “find a perspective that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.”

Therein lies the tie between beauty and leadership. Savoring Beauty is not only a formula for promoting health and wellbeing, it is also a formula for promoting social capital and collective efficacy. If leaders want to get things done, then those are the dynamics to which we must attend.

What’s social capital? It’s the connections between people in groups that stem from a sense of mutual trust and reciprocity. Such connections represent capital because of the benefits they generate. The larger the network of such positive connections the more the benefits that accrue.

Social capital is not created when leaders are focused on the negative, criticizing people, looking for shortcuts, self-absorbed, or unable to see the perfection • the opportunity • in every situation. Until and unless leaders become appraisers of beauty rather than analyzers of angst, our leadership will fall short of enabling and empowering people to get things done. 
One of the most important benefits of social capital is collective efficacy. What’s that? It’s the collective belief of people in groups that they have the capability to accomplish their objectives. It’s the power of “We can do it!” that is currently sweeping through northern Africa, western Asia, Madison, Wisconsin, and other places around the globe.

Such confidence does not always win the day, but it is always a factor when the day is won. Affirming people, seeing their potential, celebrating what’s right, and noticing beauty are all leadership strategies for encouraging people and galvanizing them into a collective force.

This can be difficult, especially when the challenges are great, but it is never impossible. It is, in fact, the mark of transformational leadership to make this happen. 

In his essay, “To Win, Create What’s Scarce,” thought leader Seth Godin frames the connection between beauty and leadership in these terms: when things are difficult they become scarce, valuable, sought-after, and in-demand.

•What’s difficult?” Godin writes in his essay, “Creating beauty is difficult, whether it’s the tangible beauty of a brilliant innovation or the intangible essence of exceptional leadership. Beauty exists in an elegant and novel approach to a problem. Maybe it’s captured in a simple device that works intuitively, reliably, and efficiently or in an effective solution • a ‘beautiful’ solution • to an organizational dysfunction. And it exists in the act of connecting with and leading people.•

That’s the kind of leadership people and organizations are calling for in today’s world. We don’t want slave drivers, we certainly don’t want worriers, and we don’t even want managers who find ways to make things cheaper, faster, and easier. We want leaders who can do the difficult work of seeing and calling forth beauty in people.

Coaching Inquiries: What helps you to see beauty in every situation? How can you better point that out and share what you see with others? What effect do you think that might have? Who do you know who is that kind of leader? How could you interview them to find out their secret?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

Your latest Provision, Jesus Matters, is incredible. Surely, you are a master! To approach the sensitive subject of Jesus and do it so masterfully is very, very impressive! I am so thankful for your gift!

I have been following your latest Provision series on leadership with interest. In my humble opinion, you knock it out of the park with this Provision about Jesus!

I loved this Provision. I wonder what would happen in the church if preachers shared this “Good News.” Thanks for expressing your thoughts (and mine) so clearly.

Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming wedding. I was in an esoteric society and I respect and admire all the great spiritual leaders. Jesus is my Master. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for putting me back on the distribution list for Provisions. How serendipitous that your Provision for this week focused on Jesus! He is important to me. Your insights about Jesus being a leader bring him alive in a new way for me. Thanks.

This Provision hits home with so many questions I’ve had for a long time now. It’s educational, entertaining, and engaging and really “hits the spot” with me. Through your eyes, wisdom, and leadership I’m able to connect with “Jesus” with no strings attached (as has been my experience with so many religions). I especially like the line…”If leadership is anything it is the art of possibility.” As always, thank you for sharing! 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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