Unusual leadership moments

by Didier Marlier on Friday May 6th, 2016

There are a few and very simple experiments which I would encourage you to do for your personal (leadership) development and the one of your team:

  • I always enjoyed the jovial, mischievous and profoundly humane depth of Finnish “Business Philosopher”, Essa Saarinen. On that unforgettable Helsinki Summer evening dinner, I thought I had seen the most frightening part, seated at a table next to the winners of the 2006 Eurovision song contest, Lordi… But the worst was yet to come: From his joyous voice, as we were discussing about creating a culture of feedback in organizations, Essa said: “Do you know what is one of life’s scariest feedback? Go and ask your children about what kind of a father you are for them and what they would like to see you improve.”
  • “My Dinner with Andre” is a 1981 film directed by Louis Malle. There are only two actors talking about their visions of life in it. But their curiosity, benevolence, grows a mutual interest in each other and such a potentially boring movie becomes fascinating. Pushing it further, I dream of organizing a dinner in the dark as part of a team coaching event. All the main capitals count pitch dark restaurants or, less risky, some who request you to wear blindfold for the culinary and sensorial experience. Well what about also using only four senses for getting to know our colleagues around us on the table? Anyone amongst you will be courageous enough to do it?
  • Citizen M was created by people from… the fashion industry. Their search for a unique positioning is amazing and its translation into an original offering for the business traveller is worth testing. The last time I went there, I tested what it was like to sit at the long table where anyone can come and engage into a conversation with perfect strangers… A unique experience!
  • But the most interesting, recent experience, tested in December and redone recently, was a “Monastic Dinner”. People were shocked at the beginning and thought: “Why are we travelling from so far away to stare at each other without sharing a word?” (we lifted the law of silence after 30’, to allow rich discussions to ensue). How can silence speak louder than words? How can I get to know someone without speaking to them? I encourage you to watch this moving short clip.

Marina Abramovic and her companion, Ulay, were famous figures of the art scene of the 70’s. Their key project was to walk from both ends of the Great Wall, towards each other and get married when encountering mid-way. Unfortunately, it took so long to obtain the due authorizations and sponsorship that, by the time they started, splitting was on top of the agenda rather than marriage. So when they met half-way, on the Great Wall, a long hug was given, a last kiss and… without looking back, they went their ways, separately.

In 2010, the MoMA celebrated Abramovic’s career by a large exhibition. Rather than the usual, boring cocktail, she decided to offer “one minute of silence with the artist”…

Do you still wonder if silent expressions can’t say more than words?

It shouldn’t be like that but, it is often “lonely at the top”, so enjoy your,sometimes, solitary Leadership Journey!

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