6 Reasons An Arts Education Makes Good Business Sense


As an executive coach with a degree in fine art, I’m often asked. “How did you go from artist to executive coach”? It’s a fair question.

To clarify, in between I did spend a huge chunk of my career running a small media company, with P&L, revenue, budgeting, hiring and leadership responsibilities. But the transferable skills I learned as a fine artist served me in ways that turned out to be much more relevant than I ever anticipated.

There are subtle leadership skills you learn as an artist that are just overlooked by most traditional business schools. Here are a few:

  1. Presence: Artists learn to refine their powers of observation. They are taught to look deeply, focus and search for understanding before responding. Being an artist requires being present, and in the moment.
  1. Curiosity: Artists possess an innate and intense curiosity; about society, about the human experience, about everything. That innate curiosity gives us a window into so many different worlds, and broadens our perspective immensely.
  1. Decision-making: While artists are process-oriented, they’re also passionate about progress. Rarely do they pause to get buy-in; preferring instead to make decisions based on gut instincts. Only the best leaders rely on their instincts. Most rely on data, political buy-in, or other external factors that slow the decision-making process. Often unnecessarily.
  1. Communication: Communication is at the heart of the artistic experience. Seasoned artists rarely operate without some conscious concern for what needs to be communicated. Communication is central to their purpose.
  1. Lateral thinking: In part, because of their hunger to explore new dimensions, artists routinely search for solutions by looking laterally. We are trained to connect-the-dots in non-linear ways, and find unconventional approaches that can lead to new possibilities.
  1. Experimentation: Artists experiment constantly, and know how to “fail fast.” Executives must embrace some level of experimentation in order to lead. Otherwise, they relegate themselves to following trends, which leave an enterprise vulnerable to competitive forces.

I’m interested in connecting with other artists who’ve gone on to lead companies, and then transitioned into human development. Any other executive coaches with a background in fine arts? Drop me a note!