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Coloring Outside the Lines: The Art of Leadership

Growing up, my sister Tara, along with my mother, my grandmother, and my great grandmother, embraced a world of art with a passion that was second nature to them. I was the outlier, more intrigued by the patterns of human behavior than the stroke of a paintbrush. Yet, over the years, and through countless family gatherings surrounded by canvases, sketches, colored pencils, and paint brushes, I realized, the talent of art lies in how we view things, my sister and other family members through colors, myself through behaviors, and my other sister, Monica, through her masterful skill with numbers.

In art, as in leadership, 'staying inside the lines' is often seen as a beginner's exercise; about mastering control and knowing the boundaries. One thing my sister taught us, and continues to teach our younger generation is how to simply change the view when you go outside the lines. Through many untrained and weapy eyes over the years, my sister has helped our devestated children turn 'outside the line' mishaps, into a masterpiece by simply using the deviation to add to the picture. Seeing beyond the black and white and looking past the picture that someone else made for us, she would take the error and turn it into a new piece of the picture, demonstrating to the rest of us not to be afraid to look past the obvious.

Much like artistry, leadership is not about creating lines that confine, but about having the courage to see and create beyond them. Leaders who fear deviation from the "plan", the "strategy", or the "picture" do so out of a preference for safety and comfort, in otherwords, do so from a fixed mindset. This resistance is particularly detrimental in healthcare, where being open to new methods or creative treatment regimens can have a significant bearing on the care and outcomes of our patients.

A fixed mindset not only curbs innovation but also fosters a punitive culture that is unforgiving of mistakes. Imagine a nurse or a young doctor who identifies a better way to treat a disease or care for a patient, but hesitates to speak up for fear of being shamed or punished. The consequences of an environment that doesnt promote versatility of thought, limits opportunities for improvement both for the person and for the industry. In contrast, my artistic family members view every 'outside of the line' deviation as a chance to enhance their work, turning what might seem like an error into a feature that adds depth, character, and value.

Leaders who embrace a growth mindset encourage their teams to think outside the box, viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and innovation. They create environments that support experimentation and the sharing of new ideas, recognizing that innovation is often a non-linear process with multiple changes in direction. These leaders not only drive improvements for their business but they also enhance the interpersonal dynamics among team members. In healthcare, this level of adaptability can be the difference between life and death.

Leadership must be about seeing beyond the status quo and envisioning what could be. It cant be about accepting the lines that are drawn for us, we must dare to draw new ones that enhance and transform the entire picture. Just as my sister can change a blank canvas into a vibrant masterpiece, a true leader takes circumstances and people, and weaves them into more than they think is possible. This form of leadership requires creativity, courage, and an insatiable curiosity for the "what if?" Challenging the norm, pushing the boundaries, and coloring outside the lines has the power to turn everyday opportunities into an extraordinary masterpiece that defies all lines of conventionality.

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