By: Allyson Mallah, ACC & Casey Reason, Ph.D.
Love? Magic? Infinity? Serious, tightly wound scholarly types might be getting nervous at the suggestion that leading highly innovative organizations requires a formula for leadership like this. The truth is, the Love, Magic, and Infinity formula is actually rooted in decades of research in human performance. Read on.
Love: If you don’t love your challenges as a leader, the most creative and innovative version of you will likely fail to appear. If you don’t love your team, they won’t stay. The research on employment decisions is replete with findings wherein the best employees will work for an organization they love—putting that affinity above factors like money or prestige (Van den Berg, 2005). If you don’t love your clients or customers, one of your competitors will. And while some of you reading this may be reluctant to use a word like love in this context, perhaps you should challenge that hesitation. In a world where too many distractions make it hard to find your focus, impulses like fear and love are most defining. So, commit to love—loving your challenges, your team, your customers and the road ahead. After all, the research on emotion is clear. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Fear, gratitude, stress, and love are all emotions. The more you live and embrace any of these dance partners, the more robust they become.
Magic: While your careful mind may search for logical solutions, remember—magic does exist. The physics of bumble bees and jet planes actually predicts that neither can fly. Based on gravity, weight, and a myriad of other factors, bees and jet planes aren’t supposed to be able to get up into the air—but they do. If you submit to flying in a jet plane, you believe in the unpredictable promise of flight. So, if you trust your life to this form of magic, are you willing to embrace it in other situations?
Magic shows up in belief, when your team may be up against difficult odds. The best leaders have an acute optimism and are able to convince others around them that even though the odds may be working against them, an innovative winning moment is just ahead. Anyone reading this blog has heard “there’s no way you can do this,” only to shock the doubters and prevail. The best leaders conjure the magical, logic defiance of jet planes and bumble bees as they overcome a tough challenge, and prevail (Reason, 2014).
Infinity: “To Infinity and beyond.” While the sober realist would seek to correct Lieutenant Buzz Lightyear from the movie Toy Story, there is something remarkably buoyant about the sentiment behind that statement. To contemplate Infinity you need to embrace the notion that you can simply add one, or a million and one, to any number, forever— into the limitless abyss of infinity.
As we bring you back from talking toys, from movies and mathematical definitions for the term infinity, we suggest that the best leaders consistently maintain the observance of infinite possibilities (Williams, Chan, & Barnhofer). They believe that the best people on their team can continue to grow and improve. They believe that in a world where technology has made anything possible that there are an infinite number of possibilities and potential outcomes.
Leaders like Steve Jobs maintained an infinity presupposition to his work, believing his products wouldn’t just serve an existing need. He believed his innovations could shape the world. Starbucks didn’t just sell coffee. They created a community with infinite expectations. Or, ask Michael Jordan if he’s a shoe salesman.
So, to be a high impact, truly effective leader you need to love yourself, what you do and your clients. You need to believe in the magic of possibility—abandoning reason for hope and aspiration. And you need to push harder, and longer, and embrace the illogical but altogether necessary pursuit of infinity.
Try the formula. Grow. And repeat.
Reason, C. (2014). Stop leading like it’s yesterday: Key concepts for shaping today’s school culture. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Van den Berg, A. E. (2005). Fear versus fascination: An exploration of emotional responses to natural threats. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 25(3), 261-272. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2005.08.004
Barnhofer, T, Chan, S., Crane, C., Eade, J., Healy, H. J., & Williams, M. G. (2007) Retrieval of autobiographical memories: The mechanisms and consequences of truncated search. Cognition and Emotion, 20:3-4, 351-382, DOI: 10.1080/02699930500342522