Jim Lee is a celebrated comic book artist. His run on the 1990s X-Men is considered legendary. He worked on the title from the beginning of the relaunch in 1991.
While not his first work, this is the work I most think of when I think of Jim Lee. His beautiful characters and purposeful lines drew my attention to the X-Men #1 on the comic book shelves. His attention to detail and skill still blows me away to this day.
His artwork drew in millions of readers. That X-Men #1 sold over eight million copies. Over 30 years later, X-Men #1 holds the distinction of being the single bestselling issue of all time, in no small part due to Lee’s artwork.
Recently, Jim Lee shared on his Facebook a photo of an image he drew as a 12 or 13-year-old kid.
Take a look. You’ll see that his skills were nowhere near what they are today or even 30 years ago. His skill and talent have only grown as he has practiced and honed his skills.
I looked into what he’s done to increase his skills. The steps he took can be applied to our leadership growth. We can draw inspiration from Jim Lee’s approach to improving his art skills to improve our leadership skills.
Drawing Inspiration: How Jim Lee’s Approach To Improving His Art Skills Can Benefit Your Leadership Style
I found four things Jim Lee did to improve his art skills. With a little tweaking, we can draw inspiration from Jim Lee’s techniques and apply them to other areas of our lives. In this example, we will use leadership.
Great leaders never stop practicing:
Lee has repeatedly mentioned that practice is essential to his success in the comic book world. Practicing has helped him hone his artistic skills, and it’s a practice he doesn’t plan on ending any time soon.
Lee spent countless hours drawing as a child. He continues to spend time today drawing. In fact, he has said that he practices drawing every day, even after achieving success.
Applying this to our lives teaches us that we should never stop practicing. We’ll never reach the pinnacle of what we can do. There’s always room for improvement.
Keep going back to practice. Take time daily to run through mental exercises where you answer what-if style questions to keep your mind sharp. Look at your organization, and roleplay what could be improved.
You’ll find yourself with new ideas, new skills, and new motivation to keep leading.
Great leaders study others:
Lee didn’t go from that 12 or 13-year-old drawing to where he is today by winging it. No, Lee looked to others for inspiration. He studied human anatomy and the works of others.
By looking at how a body should look, Lee sharpened his skills to create beautiful men and women in his comic book art. He also looked at other artists. He looked at artists such as Frank Miller, John Byrne, and Arthur Adams.
Who are you studying today? How are you studying the art of leadership?
There is inspiration all around us. When we begin to look at what leadership should look like, we can start to emulate the traits needed to lead well. When we look at the best leaders out there, we’re able to pick up on their best talents and skills.
Great leaders collaborate with other leaders:
Jim Lee hasn’t worked in a silo. Instead, he’s found ways to collaborate with others. He found his best work when he worked alongside other artists.
Some of his collaborators have been artists such as Alan Moore, Scott Snyder, and Frank Miller. When he’s worked with these artists, he’s been able to pick up on their techniques and approaches. He’s able to see what they’ve done, why they’ve drawn it, and how it turns out.
When we collaborate with others, we can pick up on what they’re doing right. We get a front-and-center seat to the action. We can learn from them!
Find other leaders you can partner with. If you’re in youth ministry, look for other youth ministers. If you’re a young professional, join an organization such as Young Urban Professionals.
This will give you the opportunity to rub shoulders with other leaders. You’ll get to bounce questions, see what they do, and receive feedback.
Don’t miss out on the power of collaboration.
Great leaders learn from their mistakes:
Jim Lee hasn’t made it through the comic book world without a few mistakes. Yet, he’s not hung up on the mistakes he’s made.
Instead, he looks at the mistakes as opportunities for growth. He will critique his work to see where he can improve. He will listen to the critiques of others to see if they’re valid. If they are, he implements the change because he knows he’s not perfect.
Do you learn from your mistakes? Do you do post-mortems on projects or tasks that fail?
If not, you’re missing out on a great way to learn. Our mistakes aren’t fatal. They’re learning tools for us to grow and expand our knowledge.
Use your mistakes to grow and excel.
Be Like Jim
Jim Lee is always striving to improve his art skills (and leadership skills as he is the Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics). His journey as a comic book artist and business leader is fascinating. And it’s one we can all learn and grow from.
Lee made tremendous strides through regular practice, studying others, collaborating with peers, and learning from his mistakes. He’s no longer a mediocre or weak artist; he is considered one of the best comic book artists in recent history.
We can follow suit but in our leadership. If we apply the actions of Lee, we can see ourselves grow and thrive as leaders. Don’t discount his actions just because he’s not in the same arena you and me. While it’s different, it’s more alike than we suspect. His techniques for improvement will benefit us all.