Home Professionalisms Why All Great Business Leaders Are People Artists

Why All Great Business Leaders Are People Artists


By Jennifer Lumba, Chief Marketing Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions

looking in the mirror

Great leaders are taught. Whether introvert or extrovert, type A or type B, MBA or high school dropout, CEO or management intern, anyone can learn to lead well. What’s required is some People Artistry.

How can you tell if you’re a People Artist? In the new book “People Artists: Drawing Out the Best in Others at Work” by Peter Hart, People Artistry is defined as the deliberate act of forging relationships to foster excellence.

These are the workers who aren’t just in the job for themselves. They recognize that work is personal, so they work to connect on a deeper level with coworkers, subordinates, and even superiors. To them, relationships are currency.

People Artist?

That may sound odd to you. After all, good managers can do wonders with spreadsheets and workflow tools. People Artists go further by cultivating meaningful relationships with colleagues. They care. They listen. They recognize excellence often. And they act compassionately in the face of failure. The resulting trust usually leads to system wide outperformance, which in turn produces growth and profit.

Look at Glassdoor’s most recent list of the highest-rated CEOs. Google co-founder Larry Page and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg each rank among the top five. Both businesses are among the best performing in recent history. Leaders that win the hearts of their workers produce real, meaningful results.

Skeptics will argue that Page and Zuckerberg are exceptions, noting that the business hall of fame is filled with managers known for brutal styles. Maybe, but how many of these legends lasted at the companies they’re best known for? Steve Jobs — arguably the most legendary of legendary chief executives — was forced out of Apple for exhibiting irresponsible and divisive behavior.

Sustained outperformance requires some form of People Artistry. Let’s take a look at why that is, and what it takes to be the sort of manager worthy of the title “People Artist”.

The People Artist at Work: Five Must-Have Attributes.

According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average company loses 13 to 15 percent of its workforce each year. Among that group, 9 to 13 percent leave voluntarily.[1]

Employees move on for any number of reasons, but disengagement seems to be a big and growing part of the problem. According to the most recent data from Gallup, 51 percent of U.S. employees are looking for a new job as of this writing. Only 32 percent say there are engaged at work.[2]

The powers that be aren’t listening to what these people need; they aren’t interested in meaningful, engaging relationships. You should be. Your company’s performance depends on it.

Getting started is easier than you think. In their book, Hart and Zinger reveal the five attributes People Artists exhibit. They are:

Appreciative listening. Attention communicates value. So if you want to show your peers that they have value, listen to them! Take notes if necessary but keep eye contact, smile, and keep your hands in front of you rather than folded. Do everything possible to show the person you’re speaking with that the relationship matters to you, and they’ll respond in kind.

Expressions of gratitude. The three most powerful words in the English language are “I love you”. The most destructive are “I don’t care”. Who wants to work for a boss that doesn’t care? Very few, which is why the SHRM data is so telling. Employees aren’t just looking for better opportunities; they’re looking to escape toxic relationships.

Praising everyday greatness. Neuroscience tells us that artists have better memories and are generally more observant. So it is with People Artists, too, especially those who notice the little wins and excellent habits that help boost profits and keep customers. Taking stock of those moments and then delivering praise to these top performers is smart business, and a great foundation for a long-term relationship.

Giving to give. Does your friend have your back? Your spouse? What about your co-worker? Unexpected, no-strings generosity breeds loyalty, happiness, and ultimately, performance.

Recognizing good intentions. A good heart goes a long way when it comes to forging relationships. Do you show that you care about your peers? What about your customers and investors? Intent produces performance, not the other way around.

Is acting humanely in the workplace really so difficult that we need to practice it? Not necessarily, but thanks to the SHRM data we also know there’s an epidemic of unauthentic, seething relationships infecting a majority of North American companies. Turnover is the expression of this toxicity, and People Artists are what we need to combat the problem. Ready to pick up your canvas?



jennifer lumba

Jennifer Lumba is the Chief Marketing Officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions. In that role, she is responsible for all aspects of Rideau’s marketing and communications, from integrated online and offline campaigns to ensuring that Rideau and all of its brands remain on the vanguard of innovation in the field of recognition. To learn more about Rideau and the practice of People Artistry, please visit www.PeopleArtistry.com.