Amanda Gorman: An Artistic Leader
“Poetry is always at the pulse of the most dangerous and the most daring questions that a nation or a world might face.”
This is what Amanda Gorman said during her 2018 TED talk, years before becoming the youngest Inaugural poet at the Inauguration of U.S President Joe Biden. She already knew the power that words -specifically poetry- could have. So the passion and conviction with which she performed her piece, “The Hill We Climb,” came as no surprise.
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
(The Hill We Climb)
Her poem, Gorman said, was trying to capture how she, and many other people, felt the day the United States saw the Capital Riots. And she did. With her words, she captured the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of millions of people. All we need to do is look at the glowing reactions on the internet from people who relate to her message. People can’t get enough – her poetry books hit the top two spots on the Amazon book charts, she signed with IMG models and was interviewed for Time magazine by Michelle Obama.
Gorman represents what I call “Artistic Leaders,” these leaders that speak to us beyond our mind. Artistic leader, a 22-year-old poet that managed to do what business and political leaders aren’t. She united, not divided. She inspired, not discouraged. She showed us a clear north star, not a confusing galaxy. She related to our emotional centers and joined people around her message.
Isn’t this what we expect of our leaders? To be in touch with people and their emotions? To speak to our hearts and not our minds? In this department, leadership has a lot to learn from artists.
Formulaic management techniques can only go so far. It can lead to organization and order but not necessarily passion. To efficiency but not necessarily long-term effectiveness. Getting employees to connect with you on a deeper level means they will see you as a leader and not just a boss.
Looking to the Future
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
We must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
(The Hill We Climb)
Later in her words, Gorman constructed a possible future for her audience with words and reinforced the importance of looking to the future and working toward it together. Isn’t what we want from our teams? Isn’t what we expect to see from our leaders? Instead of short-term “next” thinking – next quarter, next election – can we set a longer point of view? One of The Artian’s core beliefs is that artists have one foot in the future and know how to communicate that future to us.
Leaders are charged with visualizing the future of their organizations and finding ways to get there with their teams. Communicating the future passionately not only means painting the picture but getting people to believe, and more importantly, work together toward that future with you. To have a stake in your vision, something that can have a lasting impact.
Often, especially in business, we may try to distance ourselves from emotions. But Gorman, and other artists, show us that this is actually very important. How else can we be change makers if we’re not in touch with the people who will lead the change? How else can we be cultural leaders if we’re not aware of the culture that is already in place?
Gorman’s TED talk summarized this perfectly: “What paths do we stand on as a people, and what future as a people do we stand on?”