Last month we told you about C2-MTL, a business conference where “the experience” – the venue, the art, the music – took centre stage.
At The Art of Leadership, which took place in Toronto earlier this week, the focus was on informative and entertaining content delivered by six bestselling business authors and thought leaders. Here are a couple of key takeaways.
People are different
As you probably gleaned from its name, The Art of Leadership was all about exploring what makes an effective and innovative leader or manager.
Turns out a big part of it is recognizing that employees have different motivations, habits, personalities and work styles. In the first talk of the day (each ran for a generous hour), Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All the Rules, gave us a breakdown of several different types of workers (from “activators” to “includers” to “analyzers”) and how they each fit in to a well-rounded team.
In his talk on getting employee buy-in, The Carrot Principle author Chester Elton spoke about an “engagement continuum,” explaining how managers might transform employees from simply “enabled” to “energized” at work.
Elton, who engaged the Toronto Convention Centre crowd by tossing giant carrots into the audience, offered Zappos as an example, with the online shoe retailer’s motto, “Delivering Happiness.” A well-defined mission statement or “noble cause” goes a long way in motivating employees, according to Elton.
For her part, Wall Street lawyer turned bestselling author Susan Cain explained that everybody falls somewhere on the spectrum between introversion and extroversion. The premise of her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, is that introverted people are an untapped resource in a world that privileges assertiveness and charisma over thoughtfulness.
In her low-key way, Cain audaciously called the acceptance of introverts in education and the workplace “the great diversity issue of our time” and ended her talk with various solutions (including cutting down on meetings and designing office spaces to include both communal and solitary spaces) for how companies can leverage the talents of introverts and extroverts alike.
Great leaders take great risks
This may seem obvious but several of the day’s speakers offered compelling examples of the relationship between successful leadership and their willingness to think big and out of the box.
Reverse Innovation author Vijay Govindarajan pointed out the audacity of John F. Kennedy’s famous, fulfilled 1961 promise to “put a man on the moon and bring him back before the end of this decade.”
Kennedy’s declaration, according to Govindarajan, epitomizes the sort of seemingly unrealistic but incredibly specific goal that successful leaders set for themselves and their brands. “How many goal-setting and evaluation processes pander to mediocrity?” Govindarajan asked, rhetorically. Better to dream big.
This lesson was echoed by Innovation Nation author Leonard Brody, who argued in his talk that in an educated society where “smart is the lowest common denominator”, “today’s lucrative skill is the ability to see around corner and the willingness to take risks.”
Similarly, for Best Practices Are Stupid author Stephen Shapiro, “expertise is the enemy of innovation,“ meaning that too many successful leaders simply rest on their laurels, which hinders them from recognizing the next big thing.
There’s the rub with leadership. You always have to stay one step ahead.