7 Leadership Development Secrets from Michelangelo
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo
Think of leadership development as setting angels free.
Someone saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself. That person changed the trajectory of your life.
If you only see weakness and inadequacy in others, you are dead weight to everyone you touch.
There is no skill in seeing weakness and inadequacy in others. Bad is stronger than good. It comes naturally. You notice bad first, frequently, and with greater clarity.
What if the people around you were angels to be set free?
Leadership development is about others:
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo
- Mold people into their image, not yours.
- Inspire people to become their aspirational selves.
- Emulating others is useful in self-discovery, but not an end in itself.
7 Leadership Development Secrets from Michelangelo:
- Admiration. Never work to develop someone if you don’t admire them.
- Humility. You know many things, but you still have room to learn. People who develop others develop themselves. Self-development is the first development. Learn from people you develop.
- Optimism. Believe progress is possible and probable.
- Forward-looking. Leadership development is about creating the future, not fixing the past. Backward looking people drag people down.
- Patience. There is no lasting development until new behaviors become automatic. They might not be easy, but they are top of mind.
- Empathy. Pity, sympathy, and superiority have no place in leadership development.
- Action. Leadership development begins with theory but always distills into behaviors.
Leadership development is about being an artist:
“The best of artists has no conception that the marble alone does not contain within itself.” Michelangelo
What is true of leaders who develop leaders?
Quote source: Quotes of Michelangelo
…wow — you carved out some vivid images in my mind that really struck a chord! Thanks for that insightful analogy to Michelangelo!
I interpreted #6 as Empathy is the secret and sympathy, pity, and superiority are not. Empathy being we recognize and understand how someone is feeling, but it doesn’t mean we feel bad for how they are feeling (sympathy or pity) and we don’t judge them in a negative light or elevate our own importance because they feel a certain way (superiority).
I am striving to go beyond empathy to compassion: being with someone as they struggle, not just supporting their struggle. It is challenging, but compassion is the fountain of forgiveness, and allows me to see past my assessment of someone else’s struggle…
Loved the article. I am not understanding #6, why empathy and sympathy would not be a part of leadership development to connect with those who you are developing. I understand chipping away.
Most development programmes owe less to Michelangelo and more to Hormel. Rather than freeing the shape within, it’s about homogenising the starting material and forcing it into uniform sized and shaped tins…
I really like the imagery and application of Michelangelo’s quote, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” The reminder that we need to “sculpt” people in their image, not ours, is profound.
The analogy doesn’t work for me. With Michelangelo, the vision for the block of granite is in the sculptor’s hear.
The vision for the type of leader I want to be is in my head. The leader or teacher’s goal is to help the person find it, clarify it, and develop it. Your #1 point agrees with what I am saying.
For me, the analogy works because leaders — like statues — come in many different shapes. A sculptor may have a rough idea for the statue (person, animal, several people, person riding a horse, etc. etc. etc.). But at the end of the day, the stone dictates what you get. Its shape, size, grain, even cracks and imperfections, all combine to make the final result: a statue that everyone recognizes as a statue without ever knowing the sculptor’s original idea.
Oh wow, this is a really powerful message! Thank you for sharing.
Who should decide the type of leader you become—your boss, your mentor or you?
I recommend the novel “Oil and Marble” by Stephanie Storey about the rivalry between Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Very entertaining read. And ties to this leadership lesson.
The reader will learn about the piece of marble that Michelangelo was working with to carve The David. If you look at it through the lens of leadership, it is as much about the piece of marble as it was about the sculptor. No one else wanted to undertake the project. The other artists turned down the piece of marble because they said the marble was flawed and could not work with it. But Michelangelo saw the potential in the piece of marble and brought out its greatness.
I’m a woman who understands everyone’s life situation, I have compassion for others that may not have compassion for me!!
Love this post. Things in my industry, like many, have been so challenging the last 2 years and I find myself becoming jaded and short tempered, seeing the negative more than the positive. NOT who I want to be. Thanks for the reminder!