What Makes a Leader: The Ability to Paint a Clear, Realistic Picture

Jaclyn Crawford Foresight, What Makes A Leader? Leave a Comment

RMG Networks’ SVP of Product Marketing explains how leaders are artists who make their visions tangible to others.

When I get a chance to go to an art museum with my family or friends, I like to find the galleries with large landscape paintings from the 1800s. Most people, no matter how young or old, art educated or not, can appreciate the artist’s ability to “fool” them into thinking they are standing on some promontory overlooking a valley with a winding river to the mountains in the distance. If you ask some suggestive questions like what’s the temperature or how windy was it when the artist painted the picture, you learn a lot about the viewer.

To answer the question of what makes a leader, I organized a few big ideas with some supporting ideas – a lot like a landscape painter.

The best leaders have a:
  • Clear and mobilizing vision of the future she wants to create for her department.
  • The mountains that can be reached with some effort.
  •  Clear and accurate understanding of who they are and what they bring to the equation.
  • The river moving into the distance that draws the eye.
  • Consistent and on-going high level of performance.
  • The unifying brushstrokes of the trees, mountains, sky: the artist’s signature.
Mobilizing Vision

The best leaders articulate a vision of the future that makes others want to contribute their skills, time and effort. This takes a few different forms, of course. There are the uber-leaders like Steve Jobs that have created and sustained large multinational companies. There is plenty material to read about them. We need material on how to be a good leader for the rest of us.

Being a good leader starts with understanding that the best people are looking to “learn how to” make a difference. The best leaders identify the current situation for the company, department and down to the individual, create the plan and have the influence to make the changes to get to the next goal (e.g., sales number, product release, process improvement).

Accurate Self-definition

Great leaders must understand who they are. This means they have a working knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. When leaders admit their limits it does a few things. It shows their team they are human and reasonable, and they understand what they need to improve the team. Team members build up strengths to augment the leader and improve team performance.

These teams consistently produce the highest quality work. They go above and beyond and around to complete their projects and are often change agents.

Leader Performance

Modern leaders (managers) must produce. They must produce clear direction for their teams, they must design, develop, implement creative strategies and work processes. Simply, they must be involved. The days of reaching the executive suite and reading the newspapers/websites are gone. To be competitive and to have a committed team, the leader must be engaged in every detail possible. The team must know the leader knows why they’re valuable and what is expected of them – at the individual level. There is no excuse for the disconnected leader with today’s technology.

Today’s leaders make informed decisions when they reward or punish a co-worker. Sadly, there are very few management actions that can change a team’s behavior better than timely and appropriate reprimands/dismissals. The leader must be professional and accurate and willing. These events help define the attitude of the team.

The landscape of leadership is always changing to match the workplace and workers. Leadership is the process that enhances personal and team performance.

Leadership and Art can be learned and is constantly adapting.

Rick Mattock HS[1] (1)


Rick Mattock, SVP Product Marketing, RMG Networks has been lucky to work in technology for the last 30+ years, managing marketing, development and professional service teams in the US, India, Argentina and Texas. He loves his wife and two children, live music, playing acoustic guitar, learning and leading. Contact him at rick.mattock@rmgnetworks.com.

Comments, thoughts, feedback?