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LTT Business Bulletin - April 2015


Don Holley, Chair of SE1, and MD of the Mindset Group,

shares his thoughts on Imagination as a Leadership Tool.


Knowledge and information were once the preserve of the highly educated or the very rich; nowadays, however, everyone has almost instantaneous access to the world’s knowledge, concepts and the latest thinking. It seems as though this revolution in information is changing the concept of leadership too.

No longer is it acceptable for leaders just to solve problems – especially if they are relying on the same solution time after time. Increasingly they are being expected to evolve into what one author referred to as “neuroleaders”[1]. This leadership model seeks to develop and celebrate people’s abilities such as agility and innovation, with less reliance on cold and hard logic, and more focus on imagination.

Einstein has been famously quoted as saying, “Logic will take you from A to B; imagination will take you everywhere” (although it is very probably a mis-quote). No matter its provenance, the idea is a good one. In a leadership setting, the ability to be imaginative and bring unique perspective to an issue is becoming critical as businesses become more and more complex.

According to leadership experts such as Silvia Damiano, we are moving from the “information age” to the “imagination age”, where ideas can be far more valuable than experience or knowledge [2]. She suggests that people wanting to develop tools or competencies for effective leadership should focus on the following aspects of their thinking and behaviour:

1. Performance: understanding your brain and what makes it perform at its peak is the critical first step in developing real self-awareness. Learning to manage our thoughts by understanding what drives them, ie fear, ego, etc, puts you in charge of your emotions. Deeper understanding here not only has a profound effect on your wellbeing, but ultimately your effectiveness leading others

2. Work with others: the ability to work well with others or be a “team player” has long been the catch cry of management models going back to the 80’s, however today the concept has been modified to include collaboration or partnership with others. This is an important distinction for a leader – no longer is it efficient or effective to confront issues individually; many problems should be shared and collaborated on, and help should be given freely to others if needed.

3. Innovation: the ability to build on an idea and make it better using imagination, and to have the energy and willpower to see it through, is a common trait among the world’s leading innovators, including men like Elon Musk and the late Steve Jobs. Real innovators refuse to take “no” for an answer, and are always seeking to push the boundaries of what can and should be done.

4. The ability to be agile: it is not always easy to change direction once you’ve set a definite goal for yourself. One of the qualities of leaders in the imagination age is the ability to “read the wind” and move accordingly. Again, being self-aware is important because you need to be able to recognise when you are falling back into bad old habits. As part of being agile, you also need to be able to trust your gut instinct and ignore any feelings of self-doubt. That takes us back to point 1 above.

While some people are born ready for this brave new world of imagination, most need to develop the tools and strategies of self-awareness, collaboration, innovation and agility to help them develop into the leaders of the future.

[1] http://www.hrdaily.com.au/nl06_news_selected.php?selkey=3170

[2] http://aboutmybrain.com/i4methodology.html#the-i4-model

Don Holley chairs our Senior Executive group SE1 and has brought together a dynamic group of execs who meet on the 3rd Thursday of each month. Know someone who would benefit from membership in a group like this ? Contact Don at don.holley@leadershipthinktank.com.au