I was reminded recently “that you always teach what you most need to learn” so I am happily sharing a key learning from one of the amazing executive coaches on the current global Coach for Innovators Certified Program™. This is a critically important role in inspiring innovation, involving engaging people emotionally and facilitating deep listening and inquiring. As prerequisites for innovation to emerge – which is about clarifying and igniting passionate purpose for innovation. Most of us know what this means intellectually. Yet how often do we ensure that we, as leaders, consultants, or coaches ensure that our clients or our people are sufficiently inspired, and emotionally engaged and connected at the head, heart and gut levels to enroll passionately and purposefully in the innovation goal or leadership cause?
Leading is the art of possibility
Benjamin Zander, along with his partner, Rosamund Zander, co-authors of ‘The Art of Possibility; transforming professional and personal life’ fame, present a TED talk on the ‘Transformative Power of Classical Music’. It has over a million hits and brings a new perspective on leadership that can also be applied to innovative leadership and start-up entrepreneurs. Having never felt comfortable with the plethora of sports coaching or team metaphors, I resonated with the “symphony metaphor” which Zander describes as the ability to “sound together.”
The symphony metaphor
Using Chopin’s Prelude as the sample, he invites the audience, as they listen to this beautifully evocative and haunting piece, to remember a time when they lost someone they really loved and adored in their lives – this really makes them present to the music. He relates his experience of facilitating this exercise with a group of 7th graders, how, at the end; everyone was loudly clapping, when asking the group why everyone was clapping someone responded – “because everyone was listening!” He relates another example in Ireland, post conflict with a group of Catholic and Protestant Street kids. Where one of them shared with him the next morning – “You know I’ve never really listened to classical music in my life, and you know when you played that ‘Shopping’ piece’ and continued “when my brother was shot last year, I didn’t cry for him, but last night when you played that piece he was the one I was thinking about and I felt the tears streaming down my face and you know that it felt really good to cry for my brother.”
This implies that if we manage to the space to be present enough to listen together and to the whole, people become deeply engaged and emotionally associated and connected.
Zander suggests that this creates the space to spark possibility and activates the best in people, and is the basis for inspiring innovation.
With our busy and hectic lives, our interconnected high tech world where the constant battle for our attention often consumes us, many of us have forgotten how to stop and observe, how to retreat and reflect and actually assess the whole system and then choose what the best actions to take are. So many of us have become lost in ‘busy-ness’ and in the ‘do-ing’ and are sadly disengaged emotionally for most of our working time. Some of us are also disassociated and disconnected from who we are ‘be-ing’, and Zander reminds us that leadership is about who and how we are ‘be-ing’ with ourselves and with others.
He suggests that “The new leader’s job is to recognize downward spirals and enroll people in the journey to radiating possibility.”
- By embodying and enacting true and deep listening and acknowledging peoples uniqueness, we will ignite their joy and spark their aliveness.
- By generating authentically deep relationships, we will enable people to be the best they can be so they can become passionately purposeful.
If we do this in a way that is generous and gracious, we will inspire, engage and enroll people wholeheartedly in the change, leadership or innovation cause.
Innovative leadership defined
An innovative leader is someone who contributes the best of oneself, and generates the best from others, for the good of the whole – in the context of inspiring innovation and entrepreneurship!
An innovative leader attends to what is really going on, and intentionally creates and facilitates the safe space and conversational fields that reveal and unleash the range of hidden possibilities that abound in our interconnected universe. They enact and embody the very qualities that make people’s eyes sparkle and radiate with the possibility that a solution to the problem can be found and clarifies this as a passionate purpose for innovation.
This is because when we change the way we attend, a different world is going to come forth.
Listening at four levels
One of the most generous and positive impact gifts leaders bring into the conversational field is their capacity for true listening; as demonstrated in Zander’s TED presentation, where the entire audience became emotional engaged and connected; where people deeply attended to the beauty and flow of Chopin’s Prelude.
True listening requires us to attend to, be intentional and know the distinctions across the four levels of listening, to have the leadership presence and flexibility to flow up and down and across the four levels;
- Level one listening is when we apply our own projections and judgments filters on the other/s – reconfirming what we already believe about what the other is saying.
- Level two listening in when we listen from the outside to what others say – identifying facts and data that may dis-confirm what the other is saying and imposing our own point of view onto the conversation.
- Level three listening involves being present to other/s and listening from within – seeing the world through the others eyes and creating the safe space for true dialogue.
- Level four listening involves being fully present to the whole system, listening from the emerging future – listening with an open mind, heart and will to sense the highest future possibility that wants to emerge.
This creates an altered and generative state and that creates openings & thresholds between the current reality and the emerging possibilities and opportunities.
“Sounding together” to generate discovery
Operating at level four listening requires us to be deeply present, emotionally engaged and engaging, it gives us the chance to “sound together!” It requires us to be courageously, creatively and compassionately willing and able to touch and tap into people’s hearts, guts and minds in passionately purposeful ways.
Innovative leaders make a passionate commitment towards pursuing deep inquiry or questioning processes, they are guided by their inner knowing and through level four listening – that the solution being sought exists as a hidden possibility that encompasses the whole system and our universal connectedness.
The quest towards pursing the inquiry process and in observing and immersing themselves into the realm of infinite possibilities is the vehicle for leadership, leveraging talent and igniting people’s passionate purpose and inspiring innovation.
Without igniting their own, and their peoples passionate purpose, our research and experience in coaching innovators and start-up entrepreneurs indicates that innovative leaders and start-up entrepreneurs will seldom have the staying power to sustain, complete, never mind succeed and flourish, in the start-up or innovation game.
At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.