It’s Not Paint By Numbers


Leadership isn't a paint-by-numbers task; it's artwork. Keep mixing the colors, keep your picture clearly in mind, and on occasion, go outside the lines!

Ok, this might be nerdy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was a kid, sometime in elementary school, I was given a huge paint by numbers kit and I loved it. I told you it’s nerdy. It was big. My memory says the picture was about two feet by three feet. That’s a lot of paint by numbers. The picture was of the Last Supper and it contained intricate detail.

I painted for weeks. Then quit. Picked it up and painted months later. It took about a year to finish. Here’s what I noticed. I enjoyed painting by numbers, but as I gained confidence, I began to mix the colors and paint my own colors and even went outside the lines. It was no da Vinci masterpiece, but it was pretty cool. I’m not sure what brought that to mind lately, but as I think about leadership it rang true.

Leadership isn’t paint by numbers, at some point you have to choose your own colors.

Most of us start out as leaders being coached and guided by one who is more skilled with a leadership paint brush. Nearly everything they touch seems to turn out beautiful. They show us how to mix the colors, how to choose the right colors and usually keep us inside the lines.  But in time, when the leader gains confidence, it’s time to choose your own colors. You take a risk. It might not turn out like you expected but that’s how you learn.

Leaders see the picture of the preferred future and there is never just one way to get there. It’s never a certain set of numbers and pre-prescribed lines. In fact, leadership is far more art than science. Ask God to give you a clear picture of that vision. You might be leading a small group or an entire church. What do you want that to look like? And please, don’t start painting if you don’t see the picture. That always becomes a mess.  

This is one of the reasons I love leadership. It’s not by the book. It is artwork, and the tapestry of your efforts, for good or not so good, will be evident for all to see. If one of your paintings doesn’t turn out so well, paint another. Don’t quit. Not every painting is a masterpiece. It’s more like a collection of works that over time reveals the artist’s developing skill.  Some paintings never know their true value until years later.

You have decisions to make and risks to take. You have people to influence and things you need to make happen. Leadership is artwork. Keep mixing the colors, keep the picture clearly in mind, and on occasion, go outside the lines.

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