Category Archives: Leadership

Why Ritual is an Important Part of Leadership

Ritual is powerful and can be used to engage people in ways that words alone cannot.  Rituals are meant to affect the body through regular repetition and dramatic staging; as a consequence of that drama and repetition, they affect us at an instinctual level and influence the mind in ways much deeper than logic and reason.   From sacred ceremonies including school graduations and the public swearing in of elected officials, they mark the most significant moments of our lives, individually and collectively.  On a more mundane level, they help us navigate through the average day—the morning cup of coffee, a hot shower.  They send a signal to our brain that something of note is happening.  In all cases they help us harness energy, stabilize our minds, and have faith in the future.  In doing so they channel our thrust for survival in constructive ways.  By conveying a sense of purpose to important aspects of our lives, they help us find meaning, go past inertia to move through the challenges of life, and creatively reach beyond the bounds of logic.  Rituals powerfully harness the law of survival, the law of reaching beyond boundaries, and the law of inertia.

Rituals can also help in the business world.  BETC, the successful advertising agency in France, provides an example that can easily be adapted to many different businesses and industries.  The founder and chairwoman of the agency, Mercedes Erra, insists that whenever a brief on a new client or project is brought in by an account executive, it is and should be treated as a pivotal moment in the life of the agency.  The brief is the first step in the development of a new campaign.  Its arrival becomes a celebratory moment.  It is the trigger for a professional ritual in which importance and meaning are conveyed.  Food and drinks are brought into a special room, and all of the people who will be working on the campaign gather together to talk about the future of the project.   It is fun and play and serious work all at the same time.  Key elements of the brief are clarified, including the strategic context of the project.  There is discussion about the agency’s or individual team members’ relationship with the client, and any convictions or doubts about the client, their company, the brand, or the communications plan that they want to launch.  But what happens could not be achieved through an exchange of emails or written notes because they would not have the same impact.  Allowing time, staging the meeting in a different way, and having the chairwoman attend the briefing all have a special emotional impact and show the significance of the event.  People can feel its significance, and feeling it is more important than understanding it intellectually when it comes to harnessing creativity and enthusiasm.  Feelings make an impact on our bodies, which in turn influences our ability to solve problems and imagine new solutions.  Such a meeting reaches into people’s psyches, and the meeting’s perceived significance has a long-lasting effect.  Rituals are powerful, as they help us go beyond what’s tangible and conscious.  They reach deep into our unconscious, engage our instinct, and convey meaning.

Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011.


Metrics Vs. Intuition – Which Is Most Important In A Startup?

As Eric Basu observes, the most effective leadership style balances gut instinct with careful analysis of data points and metrics, and leaders with this balance are difficult to come by. But we would argue that the ability to tap into your instinct through your intuition can be developed and that it possible to facilitate a synergy between the rational mind and instinctual aptitudes. –The Human Company

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Environments in Which Creativity Can Flourish

It is a truism that the one thing that doesn’t change in life is change; we are constantly dealing with the unknown. A decade immersed in the performing art and cultural studies gave me a new perspective on the how modern world deals with change. When directing or acting, I had to accept that great art is not about control. It is about having discipline in the preparation and surrendering during the performance. Management, at lease the way I had experienced it, is about controlling the environment to ensure flawless execution and reach the expected results. Management is a powerful means to reach one’s ends, but my artistic journey made me realize that in the modern world, our fear of change and our inability to deal creatively with the unpredictability of change lead us to seek control over the process of life. This means that although management should be about stabilizing our environment to facilitate the natural creative process belying any human activity, we attempt to control the process to secure the results we want; we do everything we can to eliminate the unknown, but in doing so we work against the creative nature of life.

Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011.

It Is Not the Business of Business to Solve Society’s Problems, but Business Itself is Now Viewed as the Problem

In today’s environment where voters demand politicians rein in finance and corporations some businesses are trying to reinforce the consensus that they can be viewed as an engine of progress and a source of optimism. However corporate behaviors will not radically change without investors and customers asking for more long-term thinking and higher ethical standards.

Capitalism thrives by looking past the bottom line

Obama’s Leadership: The New Way of Leadership?

We have all read criticism of President Obama leadership style: too indecisive, seeking consensus for too long, not able to make strong powerful decisions quickly.

I disagree with this. Our President has taken relentlessly hard tasks at heart—2009 bail-out—and made swift decisions—BP oil crisis in the Mexican Gulf. I will argue that he offers a new leadership style that deserves our attentive consideration as the modern way of leading.
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Harnessing the Power of Ritual for Business Innovation

How often do you engage in rituals? Probably more often than you think. From daily routines like the first cup of coffee in the morning or the story you read your child at bedtime to the most culturally significant celebrations, including weddings and bar mitzvahs, rituals are almost certainly a part of your personal life. But are they a part of your professional life? If not, you are missing out on an extremely powerful management tool, especially if what you are seeking from your team is creative innovation and out of the box thinking in the context of a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Research done by neuroscientists shows that 80% of our brain’s grey matter is dedicated to non-conscious thought and that imaginative play is one of the most direct means of activating our creativity and problem-solving abilities. Read More

What Kind of Intelligence Do You Need to Succeed Today?

In my upcoming book, The Intuitive Compass (Jossey, Bass Oct 2011), I write extensively about the need for business leaders to use what I call Intuitive Intelligence to tap into their ability to effectively manage their employees and generate innovative business strategies and solutions in a complex global marketplace. Before I give you a preview of what Intuitive Intelligence is, it is worthwhile to look at how culture, society, and science have tried to understand and measure intelligence. Read More

BP crisis: our shared responsibilities toward a new path to success

BP oil spill nearshore trajectory june18 2010
The tragedy in the Gulf continues. By now we’ve all seen the horrendous images of seabirds, fish, dolphins, and other forms of aquatic life – dead or dying, helpless as they slither about covered in oil, an agonizing sight for all the world to see.  We’ve seen the Cajun shrimpers bemoan the loss of their lifestyle, and we are witnessing a slow, lingering devastation – as the sea itself seems to be gasping for breath. Read More

Michael Schrage and the Intuition Fallacy

There’s a post on the HBR blogTell Your Gut to Please Shut Up – by Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, in which he denounces the current trend about intuition as the key to quick, effective, successful decision-making.
Although Schrage’s argument seems to make perfect sense, and his ideas are well articulated, I think this is just another false debate about intuition. Read More