Much of the job of a leader is to become a curator of talent: to find the talented people who can do their best work in the environment of your organization. ~ Faisal Hoque
This past weekend, as I do periodically, I went on an art gallery tour in the River North neighborhood in Chicago. This happened to be one of those very rare occasions when I was the only person who showed up for the free tour. And I was fortunate enough to have a tour guide from one of the galleries who I know fairly well. I've done this enough times that I offered to be my own "guide" so he could go back to his work, but he too wanted to visit the galleries included on the route for the day, so off we went.
I go on these tours because I'm fascinated not only by the art but also by the art gallery business. So I tend to ask sort of unusual questions on these tours about running a successful art gallery. One of the things I've learned, is that the more successful galleries are really good curators. They typically represent about 8-12 artists and there will be a focus or commonality among those artists. For example, one gallery exhibits only contemporary Asian art, another represents only Russian artists, and some focus only on modern art, etc. And the gallery owners are very particular about which artists they will represent in their galleries. I think it's much like what Faisal Hoque said, "…find the talented [artists] who can do their best work in the environment of your [gallery]."
Not too long ago, I asked one of the art gallery owners what buyers or collectors were looking for when they came to their gallery. Her response, "I think they are typically looking for a specific color scheme." That was not the answer I anticipated, and consequently that gallery is no longer in business. They were not good curators. They had art on the walls, but had not practiced a great deal of care in the selection of that art for the environment of their gallery.
In Everything Connects, author Faisal Hoque says, "The Medieval Latin is curate, a person responsible for the care of souls, or curator, an overseer or guardian. If you walk into an art gallery you will find yourself in a curated space such that the overall effect of the works in the room will be greater than the sum of the parts. There will be, in other words, a synergy among the exhibition's components and their arrangement; an additional value will be added by the way the pieces are put together."
One of the trends in HR is to refer to HR as talent management. I've never really cared for that terminology and now I think I know why. Because managing talent sounds like a leadership style that's focused on "command and control." It also seems almost disrespectful. If employees are truly talent then wouldn't it be much more respectful to care for their souls like a guardian rather than to manage them?
Sometimes I’m a bit surprised by how quickly some leaders select members for their leadership team. This should be something akin to an art gallery owner who has identified precisely the type of art and artists who will best fit their gallery. Then they painstakingly search the world (I mean that literally) for just the right fit for both their gallery and collectors. Now, imagine the difference between leadership talent that is “managed” and leadership talent that is “curated.”