June 27, 2016 7:26 am 2 comments

Culturally, we’ve assumed for a long time that if you’re an artist, then you must be a very creative individual. And if you’re a creative, then you must have some artistic abilities, or at least, good artistic sense. But very rarely have we driven a line, and differentiated, between the two. It is my impression that they are thoroughly different, and by not recognizing the distinctions, as leaders, we set both classes of people up to fail.  Now, I don’t believe anyone is completely one or the other, all of us are a mix. You can be high Creative or highly Artistic, you may sway to one side.  And this is important, because most leaders don’t recognize the big differences. They lump everyone into one great, big “you-creative-types” lump; and fail to recognize, resource & empower each set of skill, to the success of the whole organization. Maybe it’s that we saw people with thick-framed glasses, and skinny jeans and thought they must be artists, maybe because we heard someone was
opinionated about interior design, they must be good at interior designing; but somewhere we got confused. I know I did.

Simply put, I believe the definitive difference between the two skills is that, Creativity is a state of Being, while Artistry is a state of Doing.  Why is this important? Let me use extreme cases here. If I had someone, under my leadership, who was 100% creative, I would not ask them to produce anything.  Nor would I ask someone who was wholistically artistic, to conceptualize new ideas for something outside what they’ve made before.

I know of one person, who is a high level creative, but tends to be lower on the Artistic scale.  This person dreams, and envisions, and loves to come up with plethoras of great ideas when in brainstorm sessions. But ask this person to get something done, to lead themselves or others to accomplish a goal, and it gets clustered up fast. Artists leave the team, contractors swear to never work with that individual again, and everyone gets frustrated with product, most of all, this creative person who couldn’t fulfill the vision they originally set out to accomplish. They don’t have an artist’s process to accomplish their creative ideas.

Another acquaintance of mine is a fantastic artist, produces wonders that I marvel at. But ask this artist to change their work, to alter what they do, or come up with a new idea and adapt it to a completely different audience, and they get flustered fast.  You know someone like this don’t you?  And you’re starting to get the picture.  It’s not because these artists are stubborn, but because they are in essence a high-level artist, but not necessarily someone who registers high on creative thinking.

I don’t mean to insult either individual, nor each camp. I’m not saying, “Creatives can’t do anything, and Artists don’t have original ideas.” That’d be silly.  Again, no one is all one, or the other. I’m using these examples to recognize what these giftings can look like, in extremes. If you lead either group, or both, and this helps you see a difference, you might see where a creative on your team might be struggling, or why your artist might need help to come up with new ideas. As leaders, pause long enough to realize that this difference affects how and what you should trust your staff to accomplish; then you can recognize, resource & empower your artists and creatives, to create the future you all imagine together.


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