Marie Reig Florensa is on a journey of discovery, getting to know heart-based creative leaders from around the globe.
A leader of the heart: Are you one of them? is a series of compact, heart-charged articles where executive coach Marie Reig Florensa – together with Carlos El Asmar – explore what it means to “lead from the heart.”
In our global digital world, speed & complexity are on the rise. Some experts describe our context as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA). Others push it one step further and observe it as brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible (BANI).
From a leadership perspective, this is directly related to the need to assess situations faster and make sense despite ambiguity and complexity while making quick decisions and fast recovering from expected and unexpected setbacks.
We can not forget that next to the acceleration process driven by digitalization, we are in the midst of a structural crisis with environmental, energetic, humanitarian, economic, ethical, socio-political, and health ramifications. There is an urgent need for effective, human-centered, and planet-friendly creativity and innovation.
In Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is formed by two characters. One represents danger, the other opportunity. Our times are, in fact, an opportunity for change, an incipient moment, a crucial one when something new begins.
Despite appearances, as Carlos El Asmar says: “I truly believe that the world is getting better by the minute. It is on us, creative leaders of the world, to recognize and make the most of this opportunity here & now.”
As creative leaders, it is important to highlight that in order to be able to face our planet’s most pressing problems and to adapt our business to the needs of the context, there is a requirement to fast define (and redefine) strategies and innovative solutions on the go. In other words, there is a need to accept failure and course correction as part of the deal. Where once there was control, now delegation, teamwork, trust, and ongoing learning have become essential behaviors.
“I always want my departments to have a teaching culture that’s based on taking risks instead of being afraid to fail. If you fall, stand up and continue, that’s where the real glory lies. Don’t make decisions out of fear. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Failure is part of the process. You need to fail to learn and grow.” – Carlos El Asmar
Academic, scientific, and expert studies, as well as many leaders of the contemporary business world, are already pointing toward the strategic need for soft skills to become a strong business in front of the demands of our world.
What top experts’ research confirms is that the requirements of digitalization are catalyzing the raise of heart-based creative leadership. When things move fast, the name of the game is to have: open eyes, open ears, an open mind & an open heart.
Allow me to invite you to take an insightful coaching exercise. Read out loud the following list of required competencies and abilities for the creative leaders of our times.
While you read, try to sense them all at once in reference to yourself and your creative leadership mastery.
Observe the thoughts, the feelings, the needs, and the aspirations that arise. Do it without judgment, curiously observing what comes up.
Braveness and accountability, higher purpose drive, commitment to values, vision, curiosity, creativity, openness, inventiveness, adaptability, presence, effective communication, critical and systems thinking, empathy, trust and relationship-building abilities, energizing people, sense-making, consciousness, service, self-awareness, intercultural understanding, creative storytelling and narrative building, honesty and personal integrity, a leadership signature, courage, humble confidence, comfort with ambiguity, inspirational authenticity, ability to empower others, commitment to talent development, the ability to empower and unleash the best in the self and others, promoting distributed leadership, supporting experimentation, nurturing resilience, social impact awareness and responsibility, intuition, and a personal journey made out of exploration and ongoing learning.
According to expert research, these are the keys to driving success. You are right, as a matter of fact, our times call for creative leaders to become exceptional ones.
Being exceptional is about being high above average. Do you remember the first post of this series and what Carlos El Asmar told us?
“There are bad leaders, there are good leaders, there are great leaders, and there are exceptional leaders. To be an exceptional leader, you have to lead from the heart”.
Now you know that you are certainly a leader because we all are (see the previous post if you haven’t done so already), and we are ready to move forward in this shared Journey to the Heart.
Yet, to be able to delve into the question at stake and better understand if you are an exceptional creative leader and how you could effectively become one; first we need to observe what it truly means to be one of them.
As a coach, I can not just give you a standardized answer straight away, my craft is to guide you to uncover it yourself and then support your self-reflection process with facts and perspectives with which to compare and more critically understand.
So tell me, have you ever met one?
What made them exceptional?
Let’s take a moment to think and feel. Eyes closed, hand on your heart.
Take 4 deep slow, calming breaths. 4 seconds inhale, 6 seconds holding the air, 8 seconds to out loud slowly exhale. Repeat.
Tell me now:
Who is that exceptional leader in your life? What did they do to be nominated as one?
After interviewing more than 120 top creative leaders from around the globe, my temporary answer says that exceptional creative leaders are the ones who are:
1. Able to focus the team toward a values-driven vision and purpose that can generate a positive impact on the world.
A leader that recognizes and helps others recognize the opportunity to transform things into all they can be. A leader that sets the direction and guides the team to catalyze that idea, that execution, that creative piece that says it all without the need of saying much, able to expand the heart and the soul. A creative piece that enables others to sense, see and actualize the human potential for a better world by means of creativity. This is what I refer to as the ethical heart muscle of creative leadership.
2. Able to successfully modulate the emotions of the creative process.
Their own emotions, the ones of the other individuals, and the ones of the team as a whole. For example, the frustration, the excitement, the uncertainty, the humbleness, the confidence, the friction, and the necessary awareness to move forward and backward, twirl, vacillate, oscillate, modulate and vibrate to unite the dots within, outside, and beyond the box. This is what I call the emotional heart muscle of heart-based leadership.
3. Able to make sure a workspace is a safe place where creatives can support each other to co-learn to co-create, to achieve more and better results while enjoying the way.
This is sharing, interacting, and disagreeing without being disagreeable. Sensing and navigating the force of creativity. Holding it, shaping it, receiving, transmitting, broadcasting it with awareness and intention. Managing the biologically generated energy. Building, maintaining and transforming the energy in the room along the creative process for all to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide so the whole team can exponentially achieve and become what no one can do alone. This is the biological heart muscle that is required to lead from the heart.
4. Able to stay open to intuition, connected to the inner-self and beyond. Sensing, feeling, and perceiving the subtleness of what wants, can be, and already is while infusing shared meaning to the tasks and responsibilities at hand, so fulfillment can naturally arise.
A leader who knows that a workplace is somewhere we grow as human beings. That is why we consciously choose to contribute to our human aspiration, to walk the journey towards self-actualization and transcendence. A leader that is able to recognize talents and activate them. Who understands the power of celebrating the steps along the way, recognizing and acknowledging the value of each of them. That is a leader that helps the team members evolve while growing themselves. This is a leader that understands the power of the spiritual heart muscle that we activate when we creatively lead from the heart.
So… are you doing (or attempting to do) any of this?
Would you like to know how it could be possible to more consistently do so while nurturing your inner peace and nourishing love for yourself and those around you?
That is what we are doing here & now.
For now, the most important to know is that your true potential is still unknown. There is much more to uncover, unlock, and unfold.
Would you like to learn how to play your best game and how to play it from the heart? Would you like to train and develop your heart-based leadership muscles?
That is what we will continue observing in our next post. Thus, as we have pointed out already, leading from the heart is to be observed from four complementary and interdependent perspectives: ethics, emotions, biology, and spirituality.
“It is important to be intentional. Who you are as a person influences who you are as a leader. It is important to work out, exercise, and nurture your spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical selves”. Carlos El Asmar
Before we close this post, let’s repeat the heart-based leadership mantra once more.
Feel it and say it out loud: open ears, open eyes, open mind, and open heart.
Those are the rules of the game if you want to keep growing and becoming your best self.
I’ll see you in our next post, where we ask: Do I lead from the heart?