The Art of Leadership rolled into Vancouver on Friday featuring 5 world renowned authors giving their unique slant on the topic. Leadership means different things to different people in different situations but two common themes kept bubbling to the surface at this event: that in order to be an effective leader you need to be creative and that you should embrace your fear.

Tammy Heermann talked about strategy end effectiveness. Build your strategic muscle by asking strategic questions (building connections, impact and tension). Focus on the customer and link to broader goals that can be quantified.

Artwork by Tristan Millar

Artwork by Tristan Millar

Sir Ken Robinson pointed out that innovation and energy are key aspects of leadership. We think that life is linear (like your resume!) but it’s not. Life is composed as you live it and as a leader you don’t have to know everything to be effective but you do have to be able to think creatively. People feed off each other and effective organisations are those are able to innovate and transform.

Ron Tite pointed out that reinvention is critical for leaders. We are all artists and should be rebels with a cause. In order to succeed your personal values must align with your business values. Great leaders believe in something greater, great artists do it to do it. He reminded us to be anti establishment and not to fear failure.

Michael Bungay Stanier talked about the 3 vicious circles that leaders face: you either feel overwhelmed, or like an over dependent teen (the more advice you give the more they want), or you feel a sense of disconnect. We all do good, great or bad work – it’s the proportions that count. Great work gives us impact and meaning. He reminded us to say less and ask more.

Neil Pasricha talked about how to be happy. When we are little we’re told to work hard, be a success and happiness will follow when in fact it is the opposite. Start by being happy, do great work and then big success comes. Here’s a recipe for happiness (based on major studies done on the topic):

  1. Take 3 nature walks per week
  2. Journal the best parts of your day
  3. Do 5 conscious acts of kindness per week
  4. Meditate
  5. Be thankful for 5 things that happened each week.

Track your happiness – when our minds are focused we’re happier. We all feel fear – the key is to just do it, turn fear into bigger success.

Tom Peters with SMEI CEO WIllis Turner

Tom Peters SMEI Hall of Fame Honoree with SMEI CEO Willis Turner

Tom Peters pointed out that managing is a pain but it’s also one of the best life opportunities you can get. Excellence is not a long term achievement; it is what you do in the next 5 minutes. Whoever tries the most stuff and screws up most wins – the faster you fail the faster you will succeed. The four most important questions you can ask in a company are “What do you think.?”. Women have better leadership qualities and success rate than men, they tend to be better at taking initiative and driving results. Listening is key to respect, engagement, community and growth – we have to listen to succeed.