Leadership Renaissance

Leadership Renaissance by Dr. Robert Gerwig

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Mention the word “Renaissance” and people immediately think of one person – Leonardo da Vinci. … He was a polymath – someone whose expertise spans a wide number of different subject areas. In layman’s terms, we call such a person a “Renaissance man.” Or “Renaissance woman.”

Leonardo was amazing. I’m truly in awe of his breath (AND depth) as a writer, architect, sculptor, painter, engineer, inventor, mathematician, inventor, and musician. There are probably even be some “labels” I’ve left out. He was an incredible person who had an insane and insatiable appetite for learning and imaginative thinking.

While many know and esteem da Vinci for painting (what else!) the Mona Lisa, I admire him more for another reason. I admire him for his ability, for his proclivity, for his willingness and capacity to apply learning from one field of study to another.

In today’s economy (and world of high tech dominance), we favor the sciences. Engineering. Mathematics. Chemistry. Biology. Physics. We tend to “look down” upon the arts. We’ve become extremely specialized. For instance, within the field of engineering you have chemical engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, etc. In the days of Leonardo, you had two fields of engineering. Military engineering and civil engineering. Building things. Or killing things. Same basic field. Less specialization.

Da Vinci brought learning from the arts into the sciences and vice-versa. He solved problems using filters, paradigms, thought processes, techniques, algorithms, and instinct that he gained from his in-depth study and understanding of painting, music, math. He used logic and instinct. Head and heart. Arts and sciences.

In my own life, people are “surprised” to find that a manufacturing/operations executive trained in engineering and business likes to grow roses, listen to classical music (and classical rock, and jazz, and blues, and bluegrass, and …), take photographs, read poetry, and discuss abstract ideas. On the contrary, I’m NOT surprised. I find it adds balance. I find that I’m better at solving technical problems after reading poetry or listening to classical music. I develop unique solutions by thinking “unconventionally.” What does art have to do with science? Nothing. Everything. What does music have to do with engineering? Nothing. Everything. What does painting have to do with software development? Nothing. Everything. … I wonder if David was a better king because he was a Farmer. Shepherd. Hunter. Poet. and Warrior. Ummm … yes!

Be unique. Grow and expand your frame of reference. Think about a problem from a totally new perspective. Truly get outside-the-box and ask an artist how to solve a technical problem. Or an engineer how to create a piece of art. You might be surprised what you learn if you come at a problem in a new way.

God created us with an amazing “thing” – a brain. We’re still trying to understand how it works and unlock its secrets. By no means do we know everything, but we do know that we have enormous capacity for learning. For growth. For excellence. For variety. For diversity. We can use our brains and, seemingly, unlike fields of study to Integrate. Collaborate. Invent. Create.

Increase the types of books you read. What you watch. The seminars you attend. The radio stations to which you listen. Try something new. … After all, you already know what you know. Right? Why read one more book on a subject you know about (you’ve already ready 15 similar books on this topic – branch out!). Always reading biographies? Try fiction. Always reading books on leadership or business? Try out some of the classics. There’s a reason they’re CLASSICS!

Leonardo da Vinci was an amazing man. You can be amazing too. Expand your horizons. Grow. Stretch. Learn. Be broad as well as deep. It will help you be a better leader. A better person.

What have you read or listened to recently that was outside your field of study/expertise? How did it open your eyes? Or challenge your thinking.


I’d love to hear your thoughts. The floor is ALWAYS open.

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