We all know what a virtuoso is, we all know about virtuosity.
Artists whose chops are off the scale. Violinists, dancers, painters…chefs, even.
But have you also noticed that not all virtuosi turn us on, in spite of how good they are? How some people’s abilities are off the scale, yet somehow leave us flat?
The answer as to why this is is because we’re simply not wired this way. Virtuosity by itself doesn’t turn us on, virtuosity in the context of a *morally courageous act* turns us on.
In other words, we like our virtuosi to stand for something that matters, not just imitate machines.
This is why kids like rock stars so much. They grow their hair long and live the lives of Troubadours, rebelling against the square society in order to somehow bring their own version of “Truth & Beauty” into the world. It isn’t just about how technically brilliant they play, but something much deeper.
This is why punk rock set the world on fire, but Emerson, Lake & Palmer were forgotten long ago.
Same in business. A good leader isn’t just good at making shareholders rich, a good leader must first and foremost set the moral tone.
Leadership is a moral act.
And all company culture is affected by it.
MORE BRAIN FOOD: There’s an interesting article in HBR about the psychology of following leaders: One part is strictly rational; we’re following this person because we want more money, power, opportunity, and status and we think they’ll give it to us eventually. This, you could call the “virtuoso” side of the equation.
But there’s another side to it- the much darker, murkier, subconscious side. It’s what Freud called “transference”– when we start projecting onto our leaders/bosses/authority figures the same emotions we projected onto our parents as infants. This is what teenagers do to their favorite rock stars. And what grownups do to their favorite politicians. We follow people because they fill psychological holes that were first dug in childhood by our parents.
Anyone who has ever lived in a place like New York or watched a lot of Woody Allen movies will know, that people are a pretty complex and screwy bunch. Though they know this well enough in film and literature, it still remains quite buried in business circles. That may not be a bad thing.