The Connection Between Beauty and Leadership

Have you ever thought about what you can learn from beauty as a leader? It might seem unusual, but these two concepts are connected – though few people ever think of them in that way.

One of the more poignant examples of this in the Bible occurs when a woman pours an extravagant, expensive bottle of perfume over Jesus' head. The disciples, miffed, accused her of wasting the perfume – saying she should have sold it and gave the money to the poor.

But Jesus wasn't having it. He responded, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me."

Jesus counted the act as a good deed, one of beauty, that physically showed what he had been trying to tell the disciples about his imminent death and burial. This woman's act could be used to tell his story everywhere and forever.

This story is telling. It shows that Jesus had a great appreciation for beautiful things. And it shows how beauty has the power to warm people’s hearts. When they’re open and receptive, they’re more able to see beyond the beauty itself and into the greater meaning – the transcendent aspect of what they’re seeing.

Jesus' example at the dinner reveals that beauty, in and of itself, is a good thing – and it also showed that beauty can be practical as well.

Think of a concerto or a classic work of art. They may not always be pragmatic, but they are always useful. If it reflects God's glory, it's useful. It honors God and moves people's hearts toward the transcendent. If that's all that beauty accomplishes, it's still useful.

At the same time, it can be practical. The woman who lavished Jesus with perfume communicated something more about his impending death than any words could ever reveal. And it's still being used today to help communicate the miraculous story of Jesus.

As leaders, we have a wonderful opportunity to create beauty in the places that we lead. We can create an environment where people see and hear beauty. As I mention in The Hospitable Leader book, we should be leading in poetry, not prose, crafting our communications artistically and investing in beautiful physical environments.

And, importantly, it’s not always in line with a utilitarian approach. Hospitable leaders, generally speaking, aren’t always using the quickest, least expensive way to get things done, without any care to what it looks like, smells like, tastes like, etc. We should be taking the time necessary to make sacrifices to do beautiful things. God created a beautiful world. As beings created in his image, we should be creating beautiful things too!

So go and embrace beauty and all that it has to offer you as a leader. Create beautiful environments that open people’s hearts to the transcendent, to where you want to lead them.

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Robert Bruce