Installation Art: Adopting the Appropriate Leadership Style for the Artist
During the course of installing many works both sculptural and painted, Michelangelo in the 1500s was involved in not only the painting and chipping away on his famous sculptures, but was involved in supervising and managing a team of workers to aid in his projects. Michaelangelo did not construct the scaffolding to paint the ceiling nor did he carry the tons of marble back to the Medici chapel. He enlisted the hands and bodies of other painters, and sculptors to work with him to complete his projects. In 2005, Christo and Jeanne-Claude installed the Gates in Central Park New York. There were 7503 gates, 16 feet tall of various widths up to 25 feet. New York’s Central Park was the site of a large art installation for 16 days in early 2005. The exhibit of installation art stretched out for miles and 100s of individuals worked under the direction of the artists. Usually freelance storyboard artist job is not easy because of tight deadlines required by each client, they need to finish each task on time.
There are many versions of installation art mostly focused on varying degrees of perceiving the landscape in different ways. Art as an installation is larger, and consists of the artist/s functioning as a designer and leader using others to implement the design. One might also suggest that the work of various architects exists in a tension between their role as architects and artists engaged in creating a work of art rather than a building. One point is clear conceptually and that is installation art requires that the artist/s function as leader rather than creator.
The Nature of Leadership
Definition of Leadership
Leadership is a concept describing a relationship between a given individual and a group of followers whereby the followers behave in accord to the wishes, demands, needs, or wants of the given individual. Theoretically, the followers move in the direction the leader wants them to move. To the extent that the followers depend on the leader for direction, to a similar extent the leader depends on the followers to carry out his commands (Badaracco ,1989)..
How Leadership Works
Andrew Fastow, the chief financial officer of Enron, told his underlings that they should perform certain acts, even though such acts were illegal. They performed these acts because he said they should perform them and he was their leader. Normally, people would refuse such a request, but due to the relationship being one of leader/followers, the norms, laws, and traditions typically in place were supplanted by the leadership dynamic (Eichenwald, 2004).
Activities That Leaders Perform
Leaders perform a variety of important activities within a company. In particular, they are change agents, initiators, and implementers. They see that certain things need to be changed, and as such, begin the change and get involved in the actual change making. They take control of the process when necessary, or when the process or organization is not performing effectively. They jump in and take the reins.
In addition, leaders solidify things when the structure is losing shape. They keep it together by focusing on the whole, rather than the parts. They do not look at the bolts of the building, but at the total building.
From a character perspective, they set a good example by leading a life of integrity because they want their followers to follow suit. Immoral followers set the stage for the leadership dynamic to fall apart.
Additionally, they are the point person in times of crisis. They propel movement forward even though things are not looking up. The leader does not accept problems to remain on his watch. Unresolved problems hold movement back. The leader organizes and delegates responsibilities with respect for the people assigned to tasks (Badaracco ,1989).
The Factors of Good Leadership
There are several factors that affect the quality of leadership. For one, leaders must be part of change implementation. Non- involvement is taken by the users of the change as a negative commentary on the particular change. Leaders also must respect their underlings and counterparts.
Leaders must always look for reality-driven initiatives rather than theoretical ones. Their control function must recognize all the parts that shape a given function, not just a few. Likewise, leaders must stress structure over flexibility. It is never acceptable to break the rules of the organization, or skate around them.
Leaders should present a crystal clear image of themselves without spin. Leaders must be doers, not talkers or thinkers. The northern advance under McClellan during the Civil War went nowhere because its leader thought about it too much instead of taking action (Badaracco ,1989).
There are a variety of leadership issues that can arise. For instance, although leadership is an interesting concept, it is not altogether clear that it is empirically verifiable. It is questionable whether the relationship of the leader and followers truly identifies followers, or merely people doing what they would do normally in the absence of the leadership dynamic – for instance, such as religious zealots.
So, is leadership more than what a designated role consists of? Is the president the president, or the president/leader? What is the role of egocentrism in a follower’s behavior? Does the follower do “x” because the leader wants him to, or because it is in the best interest of the follower to do so?
Some newspaper organizations promote individuals as exceptional leaders. Jack Welch a former leader of General Electric is cast as a great leader by the newspaper also publishing books by him and or his ghost writer. To what extent do mass media organizations promote as the result of talent or financial incentives?
Additionally, what is the best arena to identify where leadership dwells? Is it business, politics, or education?
The fundamental driving force of any company is not that the corporate leader acts as a father figure in an ideal family, but that the leader acts politically to juggle, shape, and propel the various forces countermanding his goals and approaches. The forces serving as bulwarks to his activities and intentions are splintering and inertial. Splintering forces are identified as self-interest, limited resources, specialization and fragmentation of authority, and localitis. The forces of inertia are resistance to change, standard operating procedures, and satisficing.
Self-interest- Followers are always looking out for number one, themselves, and will resist goals that are not beneficial. The political leader must recognize this and work in ways to present goals that appear to be beneficial to an underling.
Limited resources- Realizing that within a company there is always competition for limited resources, political leaders must pave the way to have these resources available to actualize their goals. Accounting and financial management must be advised to release resources beforehand so that goals do not end up in the delete file.
Specialization and fragmentation of authority- In today’s corporate climate, specialization and authority are all over the place. To implement something new, many different people and departments must approve it. Political leaders recognize that to move an idea ahead, all specialists and departments must be informed and approve the new concept before it happens. The leader asks for feedback from all so everyone has a vested interest in the change.
Localitis- Departments, like commanders, believe that without them, the company would not be able to survive. The success of the company is really a function of each given department. Political leaders recognize that the company consists of small fiefdoms that must be approached and be part of new concepts. Political leaders will note to these fiefdoms that the company needs their help to continue operating successfully.
Satisficing- Followers will always work to provide results that are satisfactory, but not great or exemplary. Political leaders work to motivate followers to do the greatest job they can and not just an acceptable one.
Resistance to change- Employees don’t like change because change presents uncertainty. The word change is translated by employees to mean layoff. Political leadership finds it necessary to let employees know that change is going to make work life better and easier. Political leaders work with employees to demonstrate that the change is important, and leadership is behind it all the way.
Standard operating procedures (SAP)- An SAP is a structure that keeps the company running smoothly, but not always effectively or creatively. These procedures tend to work against new goals, systems, and activities because the new does not fit the old. Political leaders realize that the conveyors of the SAP must provide the framework to allow the new goals to emerge. Quoting an existing SAP to thwart a new directive is not permitted.
Political leadership in action- It seems that the concept of political leadership casts the leader in a framework much like he is a lobbyist trying to get a bill approved. The political leader accepts that the corporation consists of many powerful parts that must be recognized and addressed so that his power can emerge. We see this leader as a negotiator, and one who accepts compromise and adjustment from his followers and underlings (Badaracco ,1989).
The concepts of splintering and inertial forces are important concepts in that they make it clear that implementation of any new ideas or goals are not easy. People do not like change and if it is not apparently beneficial, such change will face an uphill battle if it is not adjusted to reflect the aforementioned needs. That people work to only do what is acceptable is an overstatement. In today’s market, acceptable would be great since it implies that they are showing up for work. The concept of political leadership does have some problems. For instance, the set up of the corporate power relationship in which the leader’s power is matched against the power of the people and departments under him is not always accurate. That those under him have the power to thwart him is true; however, that they would want to given the fact that they could be fired for any reason (or no reason) makes it questionable. In point, the problems of political leadership are not power problems, but realities of corporate processing. These processes will slow the leader down, but since he is the leader he will conquer them because he has the power of hiring and firing. The attitude in this climate seems to be, “if you have a problem with change, you can leave”.
In addition, it seems that the political leader spends all his time being political, when he should be looking at costs and revenue as well. Focusing on negotiation, adjustment, and compromise leaves the company with very little structure or vision. How would employees know what to do if all activities are in a state of change or flux?
And finally, it seems that the assumption of political leadership is that since the leader and followers spend all their time negotiating and compromising, companies exist in a healthy framework. They have the time to solidify their wants and needs. I would argue that rather than the assumption of health, one should assume that most companies are unhealthy. They spend much of their time involved in fixing things – that is, chasing after money, trying to sell when no one wants to buy, looking for a few good employees, and so forth.
The directive leadership style recognizes that people work not only because of external benefits – such as better benefits and more pay – but because they want to achieve and be fulfilled. They want to feel that they are responsible for their work and feel their work is something meaningful and worth looking forward to and being proud of. The directive leader also recognizes that while the forces of splintering and inertia are negative processes or structures in an organization, these can be outmaneuvered by vigilant managers pushing for corporate coherence and non-acceptance of corporate politics. Such leaders also note that leadership does not succumb to what employees want, or what their motivations are. Directive leaders push their own vision, goals, and requirements.
The directive leader moves in opposition to the political leader in a variety of ways. These differences are found in company goals, communication, proactiveness, standard operating procedures, simplicity, resolving conflict, and satisficing.
Company goals- Political leaders establish goals as a result of employee consensus and input. They assume that if employees do not participate in the decision-making process, leader goals will be thwarted and weakened by vested interests and bureaucratic systems and structures. Political leaders look to the employees to provide a vision of what direction the corporation should be heading. Directive leaders do not ground their vision and goals on employee participation, but on what they believe the vision should entail. Corporations are not democracies, but autocracies. The leader announces and the followers obey. This is not to say that directive leaders are not listeners. They listen to people who provide sound information resting on objective data.
Communication- Political leaders want informal and flexible communications provided to their followers. This allows them to have room to negotiate and compromise on issues and functions. Directive leaders want clear, concise communications in words, actions, decisions, systems, and structures. They want their followers to be able to understand what is expected of them, and how they should perform. Informal communications breed confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Proactiveness- Political leaders, dependent on employee wants and a flexible, informal system, tend to operate reactively. They are firemen putting out fires. Conversely, directive leaders are proactive, and they are involved. They dislike fires, so they make sure that fires don’t occur or are put out before they have to get involved. Directive leaders are also hands-on, get in your face, aggressive individuals. They don’t respond to happenings, they make the happenings.
Standard operating procedures- Political leaders look at SOPs as possible threats and bulwarks to leadership goals being met. They argue that they prevent creativity and forward movement. Directive leaders look at SOPs as necessary processes and structures available to move their goals forward without impediments. They exist to allow users to make sound decisions. The directive leader looks at SOPs as mechanisms of efficiency and effectiveness.
Simplicity- The political leader, by focusing on adjustments, compromise, and negotiations, creates a complex corporate environment in which followers really do not understand the nature of the company, what it stands for, and what goals they should be attempting to achieve. Directive leaders look for simplicity in both the quantity and quality of expected outcomes. They set up only a few goals and present them as simplistically as possible. With these few goals, followers have very little leeway for politics, are focused, and are clear about what is expected from them.
Resolving conflict- Political leaders resolve conflicts by negotiation. Directive leaders resolve them by notifying the parties involved that it better be resolved quickly and in terms of what is best for the company. In point, the conflict better have something to do with making the bottom line more positive.
Satisficing- Political leaders assume that agents work only to provide an acceptable product. Directive leaders assume that employees work to provide the best possible product, not one that is merely satisfactory. Hence, directive leaders push for raising the standard of outcomes. They want the better of the best (Badaracco ,1989).
The concept of directive leadership is a salient concept for several reasons. First, it recognizes that a company is more than a political entity in which groups and people operate to control their own interests and departments. It notes that companies look to competition to drive their own operations. If you don’t watch how the competition is possibly going to influence your bottom line, you might be out of business. In sum, directive leadership says that the significant weaknesses of a company are not the political situations, but the external threat of the competition.
Additionally, directive leaders provide clear communications so that workers know how to work, and what to work toward. Informal communications only create confusion in the workplace and, as a result, lost efficiencies and monies.
And finally, directive leaders assume that employees want to perform at their best because if they aim for only satisficing, then satisficing is what they will get (Badaracco ,1989).
The values leadership style promotes the concept that the overarching driving force of any leader is to instill in their workers the view that economics, finance, and making money take second place to the values of the company. Values establish corporate product and service quality. They make the company great and create great employees. Promoting values over the bottom line bonds the employees not to the leader, but to the company. As such, this bonding propels employees toward leadership, autonomy, and creativity. This philosophy looks toward delegation of authority, invisible leadership, and constant movement to make systems and structures better in sync with corporate values. SOPs no longer exist as bulwarks to prevent change, but help to promote change. The focus on values pushes the company and employees to greater performance and quality. So how does the values leadership style compare with the political and directive?
Corporate vision- Values leadership – like political leadership – looks to the employees for a consensus on what the vision should be for the company. Alternately, the directive style creates a vision via what the leader says the vision is. Employees exist to create profits.
Conflict- When it comes to conflict, political leaders look for compromises to conflict, while directive leaders look at conflict as problems to be resolved quickly, and values leaders look to resolve the conflict in favor of espoused company values.
Standard operating procedures- When dealing with standard operating procedures (SOPs), structures and systems, political leaders look at SOPs as mechanisms set up to prevent goal satisfaction. Conversely, directive leaders see them as the foundation for efficient and effective corporate processing, while values leaders look to them as devices capable of transmitting company values.
Informal vs. formal environment- Political leaders prefer an informal company environment to allow room for negotiation and compromise. Values leaders want informality also so that creativity and great performance will not be stifled by rigid structures, and values can be developed through SOPs. On the other hand, directive leaders want formal structures so that the company does not overreach its bounds, or fall prey to feel-good meanderings or wasted efforts.
Satisficing- And finally, when it comes to satisficing, political leaders believe employees work only toward acceptable levels. They produce what is good enough. Values leaders look at employees as wanting to do the best job possible, and see them as performing better than expected. In their eyes, the job of the leader is to help grow and funnel these energies toward the performance employees want. Directive leaders look at employees as profit mechanisms. They are hired to perform and they get paid for their performance (Badaracco ,1989).
There are certainly some interesting strengths and weaknesses associated with values leadership. Firstly, when it comes to employee spin, promoting the concept that employees are the most important aspect of a company is an interesting concept. This concept is unabashedly true. A company could not survive without employees. Promoting this concept is good in that it makes employees feel special. That employees really create success for a company is questionable, however. The hope or value of employees is not that they are creative or exemplary, but that they show up for work without an attitude, on time, and are willing to work beyond their eight hours for overtime pay without an excuse.
Like the issue of employee spin, the concept of a value is a nebulous term. Values are relative, subjective, changeable, and non-enduring. It is not convincing to assume that employees are either interested or fully understand company values. Likewise, believing that leaders really know what values they are pushing is sometimes far- fetched. Further, there are some questions about how values can be systemized and how to know that they are being carried out. Given that such issues are problems, it is questionable whether values really provide anything to the bottom line.
Regarding informality, it is accepted that there are times when informality is a necessity. Leaders do not want everyone to know what is taking place at a strategic junction or crisis in the life of a company, and the approach in order to do this is to keep things unstructured and loose. However, this should not be pushed as the operating norm. Flexible, informal structures breed misunderstandings, uncertainty, and anxiety. This promotes, as a consequence, an unfocused employee and a company whose activities are cyclical and lacking in continuity.
And finally, there is a myth in values leadership of the “exemplary employee”. It is, in fact, a rare occasion when one finds an employee whose real goal is to produce more than what is expected. For the most part, employees want a job that has few responsibilities, few hours of actual work, and good pay. To assume that the employees of a company want to be exemplary flies in the face of common sense, and is lacking in empirical verification (Badaracco , 1989).
The Preferred Leadership Style for the Artist
The preferred artist leadership style picks elements of all three of the above-mentioned styles, but probably leans most heavily toward directive leadership, with some inklings of political leadership. In point:
Directive style- Leaders exist so that followers follow. The leader as artist is not creating an installation based on compromise, negotiation or listening to their underlings. Employees are there to work, not to advise. The artist has the vision which necessitates the workers following. This is not to say that the artist should not listen on occasion but that the followers in general do not have his vision and as such should direct their activities to the assigned work at hand.
Confrontation-Take issues and problems by the horns and deal with them.
Clarity- Be clear in what you say, and expect exactitude in follower responses.
Decision making- Decide based on empirical data and logic; accept nothing on face value. All info should be based on research and hard data.
Structure- Structure is key, flexible standards leave the door open for more flexibility. All activities should be supported by standard operating procedures, which are inflexible.
Operations- Know your project. Know how your operation is processed.
Intangibles-Don’t focus on them.
Integrity- Have integrity and manifest it openly, otherwise your followers won’t follow you.
Top-down approach- Very little emerges from the bottom up except problems and issues. Top down makes these go away.
Substance- Focus on substance and let processes take care of the mundane.
Compromise- Offer very little of it. Compromise is unending. Offering up “A” will pave the way for offering up “B”, and so on.
Respect- Leaders should respect those working under them
Installation of large art projects places the artist in an unfamiliar realm. Usually working alone, installation art requires that the group replace the artist as the sole mover of a given work. The artist needs additional hands to complete his creation and must depend on others to do so. It is at this point that the artist must wear the hat of a leader,
-controlling, planning, scheduling, and organizing grand activities based on the talents of many others carrying out his vision or design. The artist does not need to negotiate, or compromise, nor is he pushing company values. The driving force is to create a work the artist envisions. The preferred leadership approach is directive, since it is the one style matching the needs of a large project absent of values and politics. The followers are there to be directed without value or compromise.
Badaracco, J.L., & Ellsworth, R.R. (1989). Leadership and the quest for
integrity. Cambridge, Ma: Harvard Business School Press
Eichenwald, K. (2005). Conspiracy of fools. New York: Broadway Books
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