Inbox: Leaders need to dream

Leadership is not process. Outstanding leaders make time to dream.” This was one of several key messages Global Women’s chair-designate Dame Jenny Shipley gave delegates in her closing address to the Global Women’s third annual forum held in Auckland recently.
She elaborated: “Compliance and rules-based structures will not create wealth and new opportunities for our nation.”The importance of “dreaming” and creativity and not getting bogged down with compliance were recurring messages from speakers at the event which had ‘New Thinking and the Levers of Change’ as its theme.
Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand CEO Nicola Bell cited creativity as the ultimate lever of change, to “re-imagine different futures for businesses”. She also identified “creative leadership” as the key driver of successful businesses today, referencing an IBM study confirming creativity as the single most important leadership quality.
Bell said her company has dream – “not mission statement” – to be “revered as the hothouse for world-changing ideas”. Bell gave examples of companies and campaigns that tapped into emotional connections she described as being “at the heart of everything”. former client’s campaign for Dove soap eight years ago challenged contemporary concepts of beauty. Other beauty advertisers said it wouldn’t work because you had to sell ‘hope in jar’, but the ad became viral hit and sales shot up 700 percent across two continents.
However, she said that nothing prepared her for her Virgin Atlantic flying experience. Virgin founder Richard Branson’s premise was that flying is an amazing thing and it shouldn’t be boring. He introduced the Virgin Clubhouse, flatbeds and duvets and safety video that was cartoon. The insight was that flying should be fun. “Reason leads to conclusion; emotion leads to action,” explained Bell.
Toyota’s challenge in 2010 when millions of cars were recalled was another example of an emotional bond that in this example resulted in “loyalty beyond reason”. Toyota dealt with the issue with complete transparency, the CEO fronting the media immediately and consequently Toyota remained the top-selling car brand.
Other consistent themes of the forum were the need to remove barriers to innovation; embrace diversity and new business models in the workplace and seek ideas from anywhere and everywhere within the business as they won’t necessarily come from expected sources.
There was also much emphasis on the need for speed in today’s marketplace. Google Australia’s Melanie Silva cited “continual innovation, not instant perfection” as the objective, reflecting the transitory nature of much we experience in the online world. It is important to get information and functionality up there fast and remedy problems in real time as we go.
Helen Robinson, London-based global financial information services company Markit Group’s global managing director, environmental markets, went further. She announced that in today’s business environment “perfection is your enemy.” M

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