Leading creatively

This January, Brian Kavanaugh was our guest speaker for the creative thinking and leadership courses. Brian has a Fulbright Scholarship with a focus in Art Education. He shared with my master students his research interests – arts pedagogy specific to adults with disabilities, primarily autism disorders. He talked about how he developed practices and principles to facilitate expressive and creative practices in adults with disabilities. He also talked about his collaboration with Romanian institutions and organizations.

Some of the things that I personally found relevant for our leadership course and discussions were the following:

  • In his projects Brian was constantly trying to set up a supportive environment for the people he worked with rather than goals that they might not understand and, therefore, pursue. And I’m thinking of the many instances in our organizations in which we often do not understand what is requested of us while the organizational environment is extremely competitive. How does that reflect upon our performance?
  • Screwing up is important for the overall success. You cannot make progress unless you fail, you are not punished, you learn your lessons and you are encouraged to go on. This happened in Brian’s examples of two of the people he had worked with over the years and managed to develop in them a sense of discovering their own meanings of life and their places in this world. Particularly in the case of RN.
  • A possible leadership model in contexts which are more volatile and ambiguous than the usual organizational contexts:
    • identifying goals,
    • providing a supportive context,
    • facilitating motivation,
    • measuring success.
RN won a first prize at a local exhibition
RN working on his art project
RN art work

We asked a lot of questions, discussed the different social backgrounds in the US and Romania, looked at creative practices at social and organizational levels, discussed entrepreneurship in arts and business, looked at the business model supporting such projects and at the influence of economics in general. We agreed that Romania is a place where creativity has a large space to develop at institutional and organizational levels, even though Romanians are quite creative as individuals.

During the leadership course students asked questions and discussed about the attitudes Americans have towards autism and general disabilities, compared them with Romania and Romanians, agreed that things are different in different places, even in the US which is such a large and diverse country and society. We had some intense discussions about social and individual responsibility in today’s societies, about living comfortably or living responsibly and connected to the needs of the others as well, about making sense of our lives and defining our humanity in the age of increased technological innovations – all important leadership issues in today’s world.

Thank you, Brian, for a great creative and learning experience.