By: Seda Röder
How can leaders fight apathy or indifference in the workplace and create an environment where creativity and innovation can naturally flourish?
Based on my expertise as a concert pianist, management coach, and as Founder of the innovation strategy company The Mindshift and the global leadership network Sonophilia, I observe that the industrial mindset which is based on exploitation, manipulation, and scarcity, is failing us in this regard. We need a fundamental mindshift in our leadership methods. I notice that practicing the principles of “creative leadership;” the ability to help others unleash their full potential in thought and execution even under ambiguous or complex circumstances, is the key to success in any capacity.
What differentiates creative leaders from the rest is their understanding of duties. Instead of being fixated on setting up systems, ensuring their efficiency and dictating every step, creative leaders work more like artists; they constantly shape and communicate a vision which drives others to want to be a part of it. Artists too are obsessed with brilliance in performance but they know that one can’t just command excellence in execution. Instead an artist trusts that excellence in execution will be achieved as a natural outcome of ideas that are strong, exciting, and transformative to trigger inherently motivated action. In other words, the vision is so powerful that you have no choice but to act on it.
But how can one reach at such powerful visions? In interacting with countless executives and leaders in recent years, I’ve identified four exercises of creative leadership that will, if diligently worked on, cause just such a fundamental mindshift and help form a vision that is able to trigger inherently motivated action: Visualization, Reinventing Yourself, Connecting & Synergizing and Embracing an Abundance Mentality. What’s striking about these practices is that they are not business related quick fixes. They are also not loud. On the contrary, they are quite subtle, intimate and continuous. These exercises are native of a place of integrity and trust, and value human connections over mechanical processes thus creating an impact on the ethics and culture at scale.
Visualization is key, though many people don’t recognize just how powerful a tool it can be. Visualization is a crucial practice for artists. When I used to play concerts, I would sit down and go through the entire music in my mind and to envision the end result. That way, I would have the peace of mind in the final performance. Similarly you can visualize on: What kind of life do you want to live, what kind of company do you want to build? You must know what you stand for; take time to focus and understand your own motives and values to identify any flaws in your thinking. Imagine your goals, your culture, the atmosphere, your products, your services, your desired interactions, and your feelings about any given situation. The images in your head will become powerful beliefs that will translate into decisions, which will, in turn, lead to actions.
Reinventing Yourself involves challenging your own beliefs, changing, adapting, and rigorously pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Reinventing yourself also means to be open for learning all the time. Great artists and great leaders reinvent themselves every few years. Therefore in his 2005 Stanford Commencement speech, Steve Jobs asked the students to always stay hungry, stay foolish. The world famous conductor Herbert von Karajan once famously said, “If you have reached all your goals in life then you probably set them too low.”
Our brain is a creative muscle with endless capabilities and resources that shouldn’t be wasted and as leaders, we have a responsibility to live up to our own full potential while also impressing upon others their creative capacities.
Connection and Synergies are likely the most essential qualities for leadership in today’s networked, middle-men-free world. Combined together, these create tremendous value to a project or endeavor as people who come together will build new, alternative realities. Thus your job as a leader who promotes execution includes a great portion of cradling good relationships. Those relationships will be the groundwork for your success.
Embracing an Abundance Mentality means wealth, in all capacities, only comes to those who create wealth for others. Rather than freezing or falling back on defense mechanisms, one must walk out of a mental prison (visualize this!) and begin adding value to peoples’ lives. You can start with the question: what would I do if I were not afraid? Unfortunately, companies do very little of this kind of work as they spend way too much time on protecting or selling. Instead they should think: how can we enhance the lives of our customers, peers and partners? How can we add brilliance and joy to the lives of the people we interact with? Doing so from a place of love and grace, rather than manipulation will lead to abundance as a natural outcome, and people will connect with you and your brand differently.
About the author
Seda Röder, Managing Partner at The Mindshift®, is a leadership expert for innovation management and creativity culture. Ms. Röder is a specialist in scaling innovative output in organisations and provides leaders with tools to reinvent their innovation process to utilise their assets effectively. Ms. Röder is a professionally trained concert pianist and an exceptionally eloquent public speaker. Additionally, she is the founder of the Sonophilia® Network; a global think-tank for creative leadership and cross-industry collaboration with over 400 members from the international technology, arts, business and science realm.