Tom McCallum

Leadership: Romance, Life in Full Colour and Magical Reality

Today I’ll muse on life, art and how what I have learned links to leadership in business.

Romantic Idealism. First, I’ll look being a romantic and idealism in leadership.

Next, I’ll explore what I mean by “Life in Full Colour” and then taking risks in leadership.

Magical Reality. Finally, I’ll look at what I meant when I recently coined for myself this term, then what that means for leadership and not settling for less than your ideals.

So, let us begin with being a Romantic.


I’m a romantic in all facets of life.

I freely note that I am also a little different from the norm, given that my Myers-Briggs type is INFP. Such individuals are known for being purposeful, idealistic, romantic, curious. We are all of us different as humans, so I can only share my own worldview authentically and yup, I’m a Romantic to the core.

In day to day life that often translates to being an idealist, which can be defined as:

“a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.”

In leadership, whilst we do always have to consider practicalities, structure, foundations, if, as I define it, “a leader is someone others choose to follow”, it is key to give your followers something idealistic to follow, to stretch for, to seek, to find.

I do emphasise the reality and structure though. After all, I’m a “recovering accountant” and spent much of my working life building businesses, focussed on structure, management, finances, stability. We need reality and we need idealism. That shift in focus in my life and work has been profound for me in many ways, and yes, always still grounded in reality as well as being totally romantically idealistic !

So, I shift to giving your people an idealist vision to follow. One of my favourite authors is Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and I wrote about the way he inspired in: “”. In that post, I translated a quote from him which totally speaks to my sense of idealistic leadership:

“And if, on the other hand, I communicate to my men the love of walking on the sea, and each of them is so inclined because of a weight in the heart, then you will soon see them diversify according to their thousand special qualities. This one will weave the canvas, the other in the forest by the sharpness of his axe will fell the tree. Another, again, will be forging nails, and some will be watching the stars to learn how to navigate. And all however will be one. To create the ship is not to weave the canvases, to forge the
nails, read the stars, but to give the taste of the sea which is one, and in the light of which there is nothing that is contradictory but community in love”

Beautiful, and an idealistic vision I would follow. Do read my piece on “St Ex” and if you haven’t read The Little Prince, or have not for many years, do read it again. It is a beautiful piece.

Next, to “Life in Full Colour”.

For years this has been a personal mantra.

This truly is a conscious choice. We can choose to live life in muted pastels and greys, or in vibrant colour knowing that sometimes that means that the counterpoint to peak moments and experiences can also be the deep darkness, the “black blacks” of true losses and disappointments.

I go to art to describe this.

monet westminster
monet westminster

I do love the other worldly mastery of Monet’s work with light (as I wrote about recently , having visited an exhibition in London), and at the same time most of his work was with pastels and muted light.


In contrast to Monet, I also adore the art of Frida Kahlo. Her art was often in the most vibrant of bright colours, whilst her life was full of massive highs and lows. If you prefer movies to other art, watch Salma Hayek’s labour of love, “Frida”, yet even the vibrancy and dark counterpoints in the movie only reflect a fraction of her “Life in full colour”.

Frida made the choice to risk everything and to live that kind of life.

In Leadership, it is key to be aware of what level of risk we choose to take, knowing that to achieve the highest of heights, sometimes we must risk the greatest of failures.

To paraphrase William Wallace in the movie Braveheart, we all die in the end, but how many truly live?

The choice is yours, personally and for your business. I see no right or wrong choice, only awareness of the choices open to you and whether or not you choose to take them.

Finally for today, what do I mean by Magical Reality?

Recently I found myself in a wondrous secret place in London and in a conversation about hopes and dreams. Somehow I flowed into describing that I believe in Magical Reality, a phrase I had never used before.

What did I mean by this ? Simply that I believe it is possible to create a reality for ourselves, to realise all our hopes and dreams, and to never settle for less than something magical. To anchor to reality yet not be constrained by it. To reach for, find and hold the magic. I told you I am a Romantic!.

In business, all Leaders who reach out with a brave and transformative vision will be told by people around them all the reasons why they can’t do it, all the reasons why NOT. Yet, as I said earlier, we must be anchored in reality, yet not constrained by it. Stretch reality, don’t be pulled back by it.

In “”, I shared a collection of lines from books, movies, songs that inspire me. One of those lines is my favourite opening line to a book.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

~ Gabriel Garcia Márquez, 100 Years of Solitude

Marquez is one of the leading proponents of a term in art and literature called “Magical Realism”, where their work is grounded in reality yet also contains strong elements of the magical, fantastical, full of fables, myths and allegory.

“100 years of solitude” is a stunning work and in so many lists of the best and most important books of all time. I do implore you to read it.

However, if, like me, you are a romantic to the core, first read his: “Love in the time of cholera”, a book about a romance and again written with beauty, full colour and of a magical reality through magical realism.

Now, after all of that, I link “Magical Reality” to this wonderful leadership quote. Oh, and who is Dr Robert Jarvik ? The innovator of the first permanently implantable artificial heart. Be anchored in reality, yet not constrained by it.


Originally published at .

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