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4, No. 2
published by the
Kennesaw State University
By Cheryl Anderson Brown
Vision. Teamwork. Discipline. Communication. Entrepreneurship. These are the buzzwords of today’s business world, but they are not new concepts for artists. They are part of the very bedrock upon which musicians, painters, actors, dancers and all other artists have built the foundation of their artistry, according to several local business leaders.
“As a CEO, what I’m doing is translating a vision for the people who work for WellStar,” Dr. Robert Lipson said shortly before his unexpected death in November 2006. Despite a busy and highly successful career as a physician and the head of WellStar Health System, Dr. Lipson made time to pursue his interest in photography, an interest that culminated in his first art exhibition, “Portrait of the World,” which was presented at Kennesaw State University in Fall 2006.
“When you take a picture, you lead people into your vision slowly. When you are in leadership, you are getting people to follow you by translating your vision to them. The two have much in common,” Dr. Lipson said.
The visionary doctor, however, never intended to become an artist. In fact, even when he became interested in photography while serving in the Army, he was more attracted to the technical aspects of using a camera than in the artistic merits of the resulting print. However, by the 1990s, when he
switched to digital photography, he
For visual artist Del Martin, chairman and managing partner of the fundraising firm Alexander Haas Martin & Partners, that connection has to do with the ability to see things with greater perspective than non-artists. “Painting and drawing make me a better ‘see-er’—that is, I really see what is around me, not just look at it,” she says.
A born artist, Martin says she doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t creating art. When she was just three years old, her father attempted to distract her during a hospital stay by drawing a horse for her. In response, Martin drew a horse for him. “He was shocked when I handed a sketch back to him that was not only better than his, but actually looked like a horse!” she recalls. She went on to become a graphic designer for many years before changing careers.
Now, when she’s not helping clients plan fundraising strategies, she’s busy sketching and painting. Then, when she can, she escapes to an art camp in North Carolina where she can focus on her art without telephone and e-mail interruptions.
Dr. Lipson also used his art as a way to escape from the “real world” and relieve stress. “Some people play golf, I take pictures,” he said.
Bob Wise, director of media security at Equifax, enjoys the same kind of stress-break every Tuesday evening during rehearsals with the Atlanta Wind Symphony. “It’s always nice going to rehearsal,” the saxophonist says. “You’re not even thinking about the office.”
Wise believes his out-of-office musical pursuits help him be more effective on the job. In fact, he was recruited by IBM after finishing a stint in the Navy specifically because he was a musician. “IBM understood that there is a correlation between people who major in music and computer programming. In both, you have to know what you want to create in the end and work backward to determine what you need to build; you have to have vision, and you have to be incredibly self-disciplined.”
Wise learned to play both saxophone and piano as a youngster, and majored in music education in college. Even when his career path led away from teaching and music, he continued to perform with ensembles and believes that helped him appreciate the value of teamwork long before businesses began to espouse collaboration as an operational philosophy.
Lee Rhyant, CEO of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, also has deep musical roots that have reinforced his belief in the value of collaboration. Inspired by his father and uncles who had a gospel quartet, Rhyant began singing at the age of three. In college, he was torn between studying music or business. Ultimately, on his mother’s advice, he selected business and turned down an opportunity to be part of an R&B band because he couldn’t go on tour and maintain good grades. While he feels he made the right decision, he has continued to cling to his love of music, attending concerts whenever he can and singing in his home church.
“I believe music enhances leadership skills,” he says. “When you are part of a musical group, you’re part of a team. You have to communicate, collaborate, compromise, and you have to develop the ability to be flexible—all traits that apply to the business world.”
Although he didn’t turn to the arts until just six years ago, David King, CEO and managing partner of Alexander Haas Martin & Partners, emphasizes the important role his semi-professional hobby of woodturning has played in expanding his mind. He feels that creating art sharpens skill sets he doesn’t normally use as a fundraising consultant. “If your work is analytical, like mine, an artistic outlet that lets you deal with shape and texture is a great way to exercise the other side of your brain.”
King also finds satisfaction in being able to envision and complete one of his sculptures in a relatively short amount of time, in contrast to the months-long projects he manages at work. “With my art, I can go into the studio in the morning and come out in the afternoon with a beautiful, finished piece.” As in Dr. Lipson’s case, King’s later-in-life interest in creating art has led to recognition outside of his chosen career, having had his work displayed most recently at Brenau University.
“I really enjoy the work I do, but if I had started woodturning earlier in my life, I might have seriously considered a career in turning,” King says. “Now, it is perhaps a second career for me when I retire.”
Whether the arts are a first career, second career or just an avocation, each of these successful businesspeople believes that everyone should discover his or her artistic streak and develop it.
“Everyone is creative,” Del Martin says, “some just bury it more deeply than others. The best businesspeople and entrepreneurs I know are naturally creative—it is part of what has made them successful.”
Bob Wise agrees that even if a person doesn’t pursue the arts professionally, “you can use the skills and apply them to whatever discipline you want: the ability to stay focused, to manage your time, to accept and overcome frustration.”
For Dr. Robert Lipson, it boiled down to one over-arching concept: “I think the arts are an integral part of everything,” he said. “There’s a side of everyone who needs the arts.”