I make art in strange places and blog about it.

Leadership Lessons Learned From NadaDada

The only leadership worth following is the kind of leadership that works to empower all involved. In 2007 six artists called The (dis)Organizers were meeting to bring this vision to life. Artists showing in motel rooms is a simple concept but it needed to be totally inclusive–and loud. How could this thing run itself?

The problem with organizations is that the organization and who that might consist of becomes the only focus and the original intent–the purpose–gets lost.
It was suggested we give ourselves titles. Jeff Johnson was self-christened our Noble Instigator and someone suggested my title should be Ringleader. Leader sounds so hierarchical. I decided Ignoble Wringmaster was appropriate because I wring action out of artists. A bit of absurdity perhaps. But to be art administrators was never our goal.

Enabling others is still the best way to promote the self. Artists are the original self-promoters. Artists can lead themselves. Helping artists learn to promote themselves was the core of what we’d accomplish.

People might think that leadership is about giving it your all, it’s not. You give your all anyway. Leadership is about how you deal with mediocre results. Failure cannot break our stride. I had experience with the role of coaxing artists to run together. I ran an art gallery. Bleulion was my baby for a few years and I found that it’s like asking for a miracle to expect everyone to be on the same page. There is always hand holding. The job is to realize what the individuals need and then facilitate that so they can do their best but they must find their own motivation and commitment.

Leadership is inspiring them to fight through the fear. So often we find people setting limits for themselves. NadaDada each year has trouble getting artists to get their room and make it happen because of uncertainty. Fight fear boldly.

Leadership is not about how much wisdom we’ve gained but about how much ignorance we’ve lived through. There must be some allowance for failure in order to gain the knowledge of what doesn’t work. We find our proper roles. All kinds of leaders exist. There are the team players and there are the auteurs. There are the web design guys and the social media gurus and there are the party host princesses. Let them lead doing what they love!

Competition is healthy between peers. A couple decades ago car lots across the nation figured out that they should not stand apart, but rather stand next door as neighbors. Auto Malls started springing up everywhere. It became a collaborative competition in one locale for the sake of the audience. NadaDada uses this same formula by filling motel rooms with artists. Art shows next to other art shows.

Anarchy is a difficult kind of populism but it succeeds as populist in the truest sense because everyone gains from their own efforts. Like the camps at Burning Man, we call ours a “do-ocracy”. Meritocracy is an organization based on ability and accomplishment. What other kind is there? for info.


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