Throughout the years, while working with leaders, I had the opportunity to meet various challenges. In addition to the personal challenges that each leader brings into the process of coaching, a common practice area are the expectations of the environment as well as business development trends. From year to year, ways of leadership development change due to alignment with the needs of the environment, new ways of doing business, taking into account research on the key performance factors of individual leaders, psychological profiles of “new generations” etc. Qualities such as authenticity, vulnerability, being in the moment are more present, but also “old ones” remained: the call for profit, results, success. Today’s leaders do not have an easy job!
Since I want to support my clients, I turned to literature. No less than Leonardo da Vinci. Inspired by his postulates, in the past few years I have developed and have been practicing a program called “Renaissance Leadership”.
The assumption on which the program is based is “Your brain is much better than you think.”
In fact, all the leaders are confronted with the question “Am I good enough?”. It happens to some people at the very beginning, when they are not sure if they are ready to take a high(er) position. Some leaders, in the moments when the systemic/strategic changes happen in the organization, start to question their capacities, experience, position. Whenever there is a fall in self-confidence, it is good to regain faith in yourself, your potentials, and focus on finding personal strengths, creating solutions and ways, rather than feeding non-helpful beliefs.
The Seven Principles on which the Renaissance leadership is based are:
• curiosity (curiosita)
• prefer the experience over the theory (dimonstrazione)
• continuous sensing of senses (sensazione)
• accepting uncertainty (sfumato)
• a balance between science and art (arte / sciennza)
• balance of mind-emotion-body (corporalite)
• systemic thinking (connessione)
We are all born curious. From birth (and probably even earlier) babies experiment with everything from their environment. When they speak, the torch of the question “how?” and “why?” is moving. Great minds continue to ask questions throughout their lives. They grow, expand, perspect, face their own ignorance, ready to learn and understand. Leonardo is, besides his influence in art, known for his indelible mark in research and medicine. One of his principles, when dissecting the body (in order to gain a better understanding of the human body for his paintings) was to dissect each part of the body from at least three different angles. As he said, this is the only way to get a full, big picture. Great minds raise big questions. The questions that we ask ourselves throughout our lives are a reflection of our life’s goal and affect the quality of our lives.
If we talk about leaders, we would like to believe that leaders are great minds – that they have the potential to see, understand and lead.
Therefore, it is important in the development process of leaders to encourage and develop the skill of setting up major questions, asking for answers and deep thinking. Some of them are:
• When am I the most natural?
• How can I offer the best support to others?
• What kind of mission would I want to accomplish?
• What are my most inspiring examples?
and so on.
Issues that encourage development and business advancement are “what if …” questions. They have the task to stimulate the imagination and shake the perspective. Great leaders dare to go to the best options of their success and success in their business. Therefore, by asking “what if” questions, leaders trigger improvement and progress. One of the questions that successful entrepreneurs ask themselves at the very beginning is: “What if I could find some way to get paid and do what I love?”
Experience in front of theory
We all had an opportunity to learn from different teachers. The question is: what makes one teacher great? Above all, it is the ability to help a learner learn by him/herself. When we talk about great leaders, it is important to talk about how willing they are to share their knowledge and experience, but also to inspire their closest associates to spread and develop their knowledge and talents through personal experience.
The Renaissance leadership propagates learning by reviewing dogmas, assumptions, postulates, and their own beliefs and limitations. When it comes to developing a leader, the important questions are: “When was the last time you changed your deeply rooted belief? What kind of feeling did you have then? “. The release effect achieved by working with leaders in this way consequently leads to the creation of an environment in which associates can grow and develop under the mentorship and leadership of a leader open for discussion, co-creation and provoking limiting beliefs. The atmosphere in which the error is considered a learning tool raises the level of awareness and development. The acquisition of experiences can make a crucial difference between the successful teams and those which are not. Many leaders, recalling their mistakes, agreed that the mistakes they regret the most are those which allowed analysts, lawyers or academic authorities to refute their decisions made on the basis of their experience.
Continuous refinement of senses
Our senses are the keys which help us open the door of experience. Saper vedere is one of da Vinci’s principles and means “to be able to watch”. He was able to say that “Our whole knowledge comes from our perceptions.”
The process of leader development, most often, begins with an assessment of the potential and readiness of the (future) leader to assume such a responsible role. Under the responsibility, I mean the responsibility for the business, but also the responsibility for the people he/she leads, environment and to him/herself. Therefore, the assessment process is followed by the self-assessment process. A key parameter for eventual slowing down the promotion process is a large deviation of self-assessment and objective assessment. This indicates a lack of awareness of their strengths, but also of the area for development. The lack of awareness that others see is often the cause of bad atmosphere, underdeveloped trust and ineffective relationships in the team. To be the leader, it is important to be aware of oneself, open for feedback and constant work on reducing your own weaknesses and empowering existing strengths.
On the other hand, this principle also applies to the stimulation of senses in the working environment. The role of a leader is to develop associates by providing an environment that stimulates development. Therefore, it is not enough to devote time alone, but also to ensure that collaborators can work in an inspiring environment that stimulates all senses. The introduction of colors, lights, works of art, plants – in many ways a leader can contribute to performance and, more importantly – employee satisfaction.
From time to time everyone faces uncertainty. The liberation of creative potential happens if the person is ready to keep the mind open before the uncertainty occurs. In the ‘80s of the last century, the American Association of Managers published a study in which they concluded that the most successful leaders are characterized by “very high tolerance towards ambiguity and intuitive decision-making.” In addition to this, Professor Weston Eygor in his book “The Intuitive Decision Logic” pointed out that the lack of attention for his own intuition was the primary cause of the worst business decisions. At the beginning of the 21st century, we are struggling with the amount of information that threatens to shut us down and intuition is more important than ever. Working with leaders, I confronted powerful blockades and barriers that have been set during their careers and made long-lasting and often painful processes. Coaching is a great way to awaken and refresh intuition, as well as to empower the leaders to trust it.
The balance between science and art
Although our education, at least in theory, fuels the idea of a balanced Renaissance education, we are suffering in practice from the desire to ignore the nonverbal. This leads us to the fact that modern society discriminates people who have a predominantly developed right side of the brain (hemisphere). Namely, in most cases, the left hemisphere is developed for logical reasoning, while the right one is in charge of imaginative and picturesque. Even during schooling, we nurture and reward logical reasoning, while creative, imaginatively is degrader and neglected. If we recall Leonardo da Vinci at the same time as an artist and a scientist, it is quite clear that there is no proper restriction in the form of “incapable of logical thinking” or “unable to develop creative capacities”. Seriousness and logic help us to penetrate into the essence of things and playfulness allows us to create new, original combinations.
The leader’s ability to recognize his or her own qualities, but also to strengthen his or her team members, is crucial in achieving and sustaining success. Understanding the style of working and learning helps us divide tasks and jobs in accordance with preferences and style that suits each team member, depending on the development of the hemispheres. It further represents the key to the efficiency and quality the tasks are performed, as well as employee satisfaction. Of course, with continuous stimulation of developed hemispheres in order to develop and expand the perspective.
Understanding of our own preferences and continuous work on the development of the less developed one is actually an inexhaustible source of new ways, ideas for development and improvement of business in general.
More and more often in my work with clients I hear the sentence: “If he cannot take care of his own body, how about so many millions of dollars and people?”. These references leaders whose physical appearance reflects anxiety. So, it’s not just about obesity, but actually about all those whose body depicts an unhealthy way of life. It is not necessary to wear expensive suits, but radiate health and fitness. The state of the body affects the state of mind. If the body is stiff and rigid, or decrepit and sloppy, the mind will follow such process. If we pay attention to the language, we will also look at the phrases that show understanding of this relationship: “She does not want to change the attitude”, “He has taken such a position”, where we talk about the way of thinking on a certain topic, not the body itself.
Additionally, the word “corporation” comes from the word corpus – body. Most corporate bodies (cultures), unfortunately, are rigid and dominated by unconscious habits and patterns. Some old habits are useless patterns of thinking and limiting beliefs from the past, that hinder growth and development. It is therefore very important to understand this inextricable relationship and work on the liberation of the body, in order to relax the mind as well, through gradual process. Working with clients, one of the important steps of personal development and empowerment is the introduction of physical activity for the purpose of empowering and relaxing the body. Flexible, stable and healthy body is a prerequisite for the same kind of business.
“The stone that strikes the surface of the water causes the circles around it to expand until they disappear,” said Leonardo da Vinci. Contemporary psychology emphasizes the importance of understanding the “dynamics of the system” in order to boldly understand itself, one’s role and forces in relation to it. Any change in one part of the system causes greater or minor changes in all parts of the system. The stronger the initial impulse or closer to the body affected by it, the more powerful the influence. However, very often leaders are not aware of the strengths of the influence (unconsciously) in their environment. “Loud thinking” of a leader in the subconscious mind of employees is a command. Not because his leadership style is authoritative, but because his signature is written by as “the director, the manager, the leader “. The unconscious mind deals with this information along with the proposal that came in order to determine its significance. On the other hand, leaders are not fully aware of the interdependence of their business and environment. On a conscious level, leaders know that many environmental parameters should be taken into account when important business decisions are made. Unfortunately, a large number of leaders does not pay attention to those aspects.
Some leaders make decisions without paying any attention to distant consequences. A very small number do pay attention and make business decisions and initiatives carefully, planning the actions that will be taken as a result of these decisions. Every business decision affects directly employees, but also the whole organization, and therefore the entire environment and people in the immediate vicinity of the employees. Systemic thinking is one of the key virtues of a leader and as such, it is often the subject of leadership coaching processes. On the other hand, the team itself is a system. When there is a crisis in the functioning of a team, it is good to ask those questions which help understand the roles of each person in the team, to see what the dynamics are and what patterns of interaction already exist. Deciding which patterns are useful and which are not is a start of balancing the system. The final step is to understand what is needed to be introduced or given up of, so the system can be balanced, again. The whole team can be presented as a living organism and you can analyze its state of health.