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What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Think Out of the Box

Leaders Think Out of the Box

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This past week, our adult leaders figuratively ‘hit it out of the park’ for their Arts Day with an amazing potpourri of activities to enrich the senses from live music to storytelling to support for our youth program. It was incredible and I applaud the small team for ‘thinking out of the box’ and giving us a tremendous boost for the day. I reflected back on the other three Arts Days I have been involved with and each one of the teams have developed different presentations yet each fascinating to watch. Certainly, being Arts Day where creativity is the theme, this is not a surprise our adults ‘leapt out of the box,’ but it was refreshing nonetheless. I so embrace Arts Day for its emphasis on creativity and its servant leadership characteristic of the day healing. Art is healing in and of itself and has proven crucial for veterans today battling PTSD.

In my view, creativity is the secret sauce for leaders. In my three years of writing these blogs, core values account for nearly half my blogs. Yes, trust and values are integral to leadership…no question. But, creative values are my next most popular topic because it generally transforms the ordinary leader to the extraordinary. Thinking out of the box has a become a cliché term but it is true in describing how leaders move the mission forward. Steve Jobs comes to mind for being an out of the box thinker who inspired the most known business brand in the world. Another powerful lesson on thinking out of the box was the tragic Apollo 13 mission when an explosion damaged the space capsule and NASA had to devise ways to get the three stranded astronauts home. The whole mission from crisis to splashdown was a clinic on out of the box thinking. From the decision to keep the spaceship going forward to the moon and using the moon’s gravity to slingshot the crippled ship back to Earth, to ingenious engineers using random parts to make a carbon dioxide scrubber to diffuse dangerously high levels in the cockpit. Every time I watch the Ron Howard movie Apollo 13, I am struck at the ingenuity to save three lives. The core of the out of the box thinking came from the mission director Gene Kranz who set the attitude for the mission with the quote: “Failure is not an option.”

Brian McDaniel is a December 2010 Freelance Folder blog “The Importance of Out of the Box Thinking” argues that we all are bound by historical rules, societal norms and day to day perspectives. Yet, to make a difference in a substantive way, McDaniel argues: “Should you choose to settle into the shoes of a follower and fail to find your own personal thread in the fabric of humankind that is born from the fulfilling of this responsibility, not only will you miss out on the life that could have been, but everyone else who would have been impacted by your contribution will never feel the tremor that is yours.”

Leaders lead, artists create—when leaders are artists, all is possible because out of the box thinking becomes the norm. President Cullinan, President of Eastern Washington University, made a comment recently about her university I found intriguing. She smartly said: “EWU doesn’t seek the horizon, we are the horizon.” In a similar vein out of the box leaders don’t seek the box, they make it disappear. Well done to all the Arts teams for reminding me of that every year. Leaders think out of the box.

A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. ~ Max Lucado