Banksy is a British street artist who is as famous as he is mysterious, with treasure hunts, elusive interviews and hoax arrest reports. So what could a leader possibly learn from his antics and art?

Banksy creates excitement and provokes thought. His installation in New York last year, Better Out Than In, revealed a new work of art every day throughout the month of October. It became a treasure hunt, shared on social media creating excitement and conversation about controversial topics. Are you provoking and inspiring your employees and encouraging conversation? Many leaders unfortunately are not. When I work with executives and observe communication between leaders and employees it is tedious, monotonous, primarily email focused and 70 percent of it never actually gets read!

Top leadership lessons from Banksy

  1. You have eight seconds. When talking to Village Magazine, Banksy said he wanted to keep people looking at his artwork for as long as possible. He was shocked by a British museum study that revealed that visitors only looked at paintings for an average of eight seconds. So he accompanied his New York installations with a museum-style audio guide you could reach by calling a telephone number to hear more about his piece of art. Attention grabbing, impactful and innovative. How would you communicate differently if you had only eight seconds of attention?
  2. Consider how people learn. It is well known people learn in different ways, yet many leaders communicate almost exclusively by email. Banksy, on the other hand, will create a painting, a sculpture or even a truck full of squeaking soft toys--anything to get his message across. Erik Wahl, who was on the featured speaker list along with me at the California HR conference, is a renowned graffiti artist. He uses the power of pictures to tell a story to his audience. How do you get your message across to your employees and how can you vary it?
  3. Follow what you love and don't get lost in hype. Banksy sold his art for $60 a piece at a discreet stall next to Central Park, with no PR or hype he only made $420 in sales when each piece was worth over $200,000. Many leaders follow the crowd and pick up the latest trends and hype from what company to work at or which latest management buzz words to use without fully understanding them. If you pay attention to what you love and create your own following of your employees, you may create your own masterpiece rather than miss out on it like many New Yorkers that day.
  4. Don't take yourself seriously. Banksy continually ridicules himself and the world of art, including those bidding on his art at Sothebys. Leaders who can laugh at themselves create an atmosphere where it is acceptable to be less than perfect. If you can be transparent and authentic and laugh along the way, it takes the pressure off and increases the likelihood your teams will have fun.
  5. Little and often works. Banksy creates powerful frequent messages, which trump long rambling stories. Leaders should do likewise.

Create your own month of inspiration

Consider the next 30 days and create a unique message for your employees each day.  A picture, a sculpture, a song, a short video or an audio recording.  This is not the equivalent of a cheesy pointless team-building event that causes everyone to roll their eyes, but a way to create your own Better Out Than In campaign to help your employees get inside your head and the vision for your company.

Published on: Nov 17, 2014