When most people think of Leonardo da Vinci, his masterpiece the Mona Lisa comes to mind. For five centuries, people have been fascinated by her enigmatic stare: is she smiling? Is she angry? The technique of the panting is what has baffled art lovers though. The unbelievably light brush strokes are so sheer that the eye cannot discern them; this is what the Italians call Sfumato – literally translated means “vanished or evaporated – like smoke.”
In his earlier paintings, da Vinci used a sharper technique and became enamoured with the blurriness later on. Similarly, in a leadership position: the higher you go, the more ambiguous your problems become. You will need to submit to the SFUMATO.
We need to be able to see through the haze and find solutions. Life is not always made up of black or white choices; there is an entire spectrum of grey in between that we need to explore.
Sfumato is about learning to embrace the uncertain. This is a common undertone in the other principles we have explored thus far – remember stepping out of your comfort zone with Curiosità and Dimostrazione…
Don’t feel anxious or afraid when faced with the unknown, rather see it as an opportunity to be creative. Don’t force yourself into a mould because that is the way that is known and expected. Instead, be bold and explore the unknown to find the fit that is right for you. Michael Gelb says in his book, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, that the most distinguishing characteristic of highly creative people is their ability to go off into the unknown.
Da Vinci himself never stopped learning; what should we?