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Made in heaven – produced on earth: creative leadership as art of projection

Jörg Reckhenrich (Professor for Innovation and Creativity at Lorange Institute of Business, Horgen, Switzerland)
Martin Kupp (Faculty Member at the European School of Management and Technology, Berlin, Germany)
Jamie Anderson (Adjunct Professor at the Antwerp Management School, Antwerp, Belgium)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 5 July 2011




The paper “Made in heaven – produced on earth: creative leadership as art of projection” is about the concept of projection in the context of leadership.


This article takes a close look at Jeff Koons, a successful and highly controversial contemporary artist. The paper explores the way in which storytelling linked to his artwork has been the key element of the way he has projected himself as a credible leader in the world of contemporary art.


This article examines how the artist Koons is using the three universal story lines used by leaders to excite and gain buy‐in from an audience as described by the sociologist Howard Gardner: (1) who am I – How life experience has shaped my individuality and character; (2) who are we – Demonstrate the values and behaviors of a group; and (3) where are we going – Explains what is new, and creates a sense of excitement about direction. The authors find that throughout his career and his various artistic production cycles like the inflatables, the New, Equilibrium, Luxury Degradation, Statuary, Kiepenkerl, Banality, Made in Heaven, Puppy, Celebration, Easyfun, Popeye, and Hulk Elvis, Jeff Koons is using key elements of the art of projection by linking his art work to the three universal story lines who am I, who are we, and where are we going. A closer analysis of Koons' work reveals how he has leveraged each of these dimensions of effective storytelling as a broad narrative to link his various series together as a consistent whole.

Practical implications

The authors suggest that Koons' use of storytelling, and the manner in which he has come to embody the themes and concepts that he seeks to communicate through his artworks, present powerful lessons for managers as to how they can manage their own leadership projection. By looking at Koons, managers can better understand not only how to establish credibility and drive buy‐in, but also how to project themselves as leaders in their respective fields of business endeavor.


While there is literature on the art of storytelling there has been less focus on the sphere of art and how artists use storytelling and projection to take their audience with them. This new perspective not only creates new insights on the concept of storytelling and potential future research but has implications for managers and leaders and the way they want to drive change in organizations and take people on their managerial journey.



Reckhenrich, J., Kupp, M. and Anderson, J. (2011), "Made in heaven – produced on earth: creative leadership as art of projection", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 12-24.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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