Monthly Archives: April 2013

Beautiful Limitations

On a recent installment of Weekend Edition, NPR’s weekend news show, host Scott Simon was interviewing Cristina Pato, a Spanish musician who is best known for her work as a jazz pianist.

ImageDuring the interview I learned that she is also an accomplished vocalist and flutist, but it was another instrument that she plays on her latest jazz album that really caught my attention.

The bagpipes.

I had always associated the bag pipes with half-drunk scots wearing knee highs and kilts.  What is a female, Spanish, jazz musician doing playing the bagpipes?

Apparently bagpipes can be found in many different cultures all across the world.  Who knew?

Simon then played a clip of the Miles Davis classic “Blue Green” that Ms. Pato covered on her new album, but instead of the trumpet she uses the bagpipes.  I’m not a big fan of jazz but even I was impressed by what she was able to do with the pipes.

After the clip played she was asked how she got that sound out of an instrument that is not known for  its subtlety.

She said “It has so many beautiful limitations that it really makes you work harder to get things done.”

Beautiful limitations.

I have always heard that one of the characteristics of a good leader is an unquenchable optimism. No matter the circumstances a leader always sees a brighter future for his company, country, organization or church and wants to take others there with him.  Where others may look around them and only see limitations, a leader looks and sees beautiful limitations.

It’s not that the leader is choosing to ignore the hurdles or is blind to the obstacles; just the opposite. He sees them, in vivid detail he sees them, but he isn’t daunted.  He is energized. Where some can only see an obstacle he sees an opportunity.

How can any limitation be seen as beautiful?  It’s because the limitation will make both the leader and the organization better. To the leader any limitation is just another chance to imagine and create, to dream and innovate, to work harder at something the leader is passionate about, and for that he calls them beautiful.