Creative Leadership – WOBI

May 19, 2014

Presentation Summary

Kevin Roberts speaks on Creative Leadership at the inaugural WOBI (World of Business Ideas) conference to be held in AsiaPacific.

Kevin Roberts at WOBI

The Times They Are a-Changin’, so says Bob Dylan.

VUCA WORLD: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous

SUPERVUCA WORLD: Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy, Astounding

SuperVUCA demands a new form of Leadership, a leadership model flexible enough and fast enough for our high-speed connected Age.

Leadership based on one thing… creating a culture where the production line churns out one thing, day after day, ideas…

Ideas that are executed, ideas that win.

Vince Lombardi: Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.

The context for winning business is not ‘new’. It is NOW.

We live in the always-on, impulse-led, instant Age of Now.

Life goes down instantly. People Twitter their thoughts, Instagram their pics, Vine their personality, Facebook their network and DIY everything from health to manufacturing.

Business has to respond to a Now mindset.

In the Age of Now, consumers want a medley of experience, convenience, timeliness, location and value.

To deliver all these is to go beyond price and into the territory of priceless value.

This addresses the only question consumers have today: “How will you improve my life!?”

Creative Leadership delivers ideas at speed and scale:









Return on Investment

Return on Involvement

Pumping Markets

Creating Movements

Storytellers have to be story-sharers. A great story is credible, relevant, visual, visceral, fit for campfire or boardroom, actionable and sharable.

In business, reengineering, restructuring and re-everything have exhausted people – and they didn’t get us to a brighter, shinier future anyway.


#1     Creative Leaders Code

Revolution begins with language.

CEO – Chief Excitement Officer
CMO – Chief Magic Officer
Language drives Purpose, which creates belief, belonging and direction.

A winning company has a dream, a Purpose, and a commitment from everyone to passionately pursue that purpose. Martin Luther King did not say ‘I have a mission statement’.

Creative Leaders invent their own language, a system of meaning, a vocabulary that binds.


  • Stay hungry. Stay foolish
  • Why join the navy when you can be a pirate?
  • Insanely great
  • Think different


  • Play to win
  • Innovate for growth
  • Champion productivity
  • Lead with courage
  • Bring out the best in others
  • Play your position
  • Execute with excellence

All Blacks:

  • No opposition is more intimidating than the Legacy
  • Be a great All Black
  • Bleed for the jersey
  • Champions do extra
  • Go for the gap
  • Sweep the sheds
  • No dickheads (Follow the spearhead)
  • Train to win (practise under pressure)
  • Keep a blue head
  • Play with purpose (ask yourself, ‘why?’)
  • Write your legacy (this is your time)

#2   Creative Leaders Listen

Tom Peters gets it.

“Listening IS your profession!” says Tom. He says that the single most sgnificant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization.
“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”
‘Listen to everyone. Ideas come from anywhere.’
Shimon Peres: ‘To lead is to listen, to pay attention to every detail, to decide.’

Listening is the Ultimate “Core Competence.”

Listening is differentiator #1. It is profitable. The “R.O.I.” from listening is higher than that from any other single activity.

Jeff Bezos at Amazon listens: ‘Determine what your customers need, and work backwards.’

#3    Creative Leaders Compress & Juice

The most creative spaces hurl diverse people together.

Steve Jobs made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company.

“Creativity is just connecting things.”

Then you need to juice people with four things:

  1. Responsibility
  2. Learning
  3. Recognition
  4. Joy

#4     Creative Leaders Believe in Magic

We live in the Age of the Idea. Ideas have magical power. It is the unreasonable power of creativity that drives growth today… ideas are the currency of today.

And the cultures with the most ideas are the best placed to win. Ideas deliver exponential growth.

Creative Leaders have lots of small ideas, continuously.

Creative Leaders Surprise With the Obvious.

In the Age of Now, you See it; Search it; Shop it; Share it.

Creative Leaders ask 3 questions of any idea:

  1. Will people want to see it again?
  2. Will people want to share it?
  3. Will people want to recreate it?

#5     Creative Leaders Emotionalise

Reason leads to conclusions; Emotion leads to action, and in business we want people to act.

The currency of emotion is growing:

The more embedded that quality, service, distribution and performance become, the more the degree of emotional experience is the difference.
Emotional expectations of brands are on the rise. People like technology but people mostly really like people – being understood, touched, and involved.
Emotion creates premiums – across volume, share, margin and reputation.

The challenge is to work back from how people feel. This radically alters what you make, how you package it, brand it, communicate and distribute it.

Through powerful emotional storytelling Walmart becomes the poster child for the Made in America movement, generating a 50% improvement in brand sentiment in just 2 weeks.

#6     Creative Leaders Discover Truth

Most ‘insights’ are not insightful, not astonishing enough to create value or inspire loyalty.

Information – Knowledge – Insight – Foresight

Information – Knowledge – REVELATION – Foresight

To discover truth, Big Data and Big Emotion need to make love not war. Human instinct is fantastic but fallible, and data can’t read between the lines!

Here something surprising.

#7     Creative Leaders Create Love

When everything is a brand, you have to be bigger than a brand.

Brands are owned by companies, marketers, and stockholders. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.

Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are created out of Respect and Love.

  • Low Respect. Low Love. Commodities
  • High Love. Low Respect. Fads
  • High Respect. Low Love. Brand land.
  • High Love High Respect. Lovemarks

Brands aim to be Irreplaceable. Lovemarks are Irresistible. They create Loyalty Beyond Reason.

Screenagers want to be inspired when and where it counts.

There are 3 secrets to being loved by people in any space.

Mystery – it’s what people don’t know that draws them to your product, your service, your screen, your store.

Sensuality – Consumers operate on all five senses, most brands don’t. Sensuality enthralls the emotions.

Intimacy – is empathy, commitment and passion.

The secret is not to bring the audience to you, but to earn the honour of being invited into their hearts.

Most organizations do intimacy badly or wrong, or badly wrong.

#8     Creative Leaders Flow

Eliminate 40% of what people do… and get them into Flow. Flow in organizations is about focusing passionate energy, together, every day, on Purpose driving activities.

The majority of people spend less than 50% of their work lives in flow.

Peak performers spend more time in flow than those in ordinary organizations. Peak Flow is when everyone is in flow together, and they become unstoppable.


  • Interesting, passionate people
  • Ability to make passionate choices about assignments
  • Desire to succeed
  • Desire to learn and develop new skills


  • Intuitive, instinctive, trusting relationships
  • Fluid and flexible organisation design
  • Rapid and transparent communication
  • Open dialogue / regular feedback

#9     Creative Leaders Execute

The wining leap is from getting things done to making things happen.

The equation: IQ + EQ + TQ + BQ. Brain power, heart power and smart power – all bloody quick!

The Plan: 100 Days: 10 things / 3 words max / start with action verbs/ cross off 5+ things (importance, not urgency).

The Action:

A D E:                         From                        To

Assess                        50%                        20%

Decide                        30%                        10%

Execute                      20%                        70%

Simple structures and core processes (RASCI).

The attitude:  Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast.

Peter Drucker: “I would never promote a man into a top-level job who has not made mistakes, and big ones at that.”

Creative Leaders Always Find a Way to Win. There’s the story of the visitor to New York City asking a stranger at the traffic light, “excuse me sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”; to which the New Yorker replied: “Practice, Practice, Practice.”

As Churchill said: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

#10   Creative Leaders Create Leaders

Leadership is about inspiring everyone you touch to be the best they can be in pursuit of a shared purpose.

The #1 job of a leader is to create new leaders. ABs:

  • ‘Pass the Ball’ (leaders create leaders)
  • ‘Create a Learning Environment’  (leaders are teachers)
  • Leading means being caring and demanding.

Create a learning environment that develops individuals in tailored, self-managed programme of self-improvement. Responsibility devolves.

Shimon Peres:

  • A leader must pioneer, not rule.
  • A leader is not on the top of his people but ahead of them, in front.
  • Leaders must have the courage to be afraid, to be alone.
  • The more leaders on your team, the more you will win.

Winning Behaviour: Losing Players vs Winning Players

  • Independent – Interdependent
  • Me, my, I – We, our, us
  • Point the Finger – Shine the spotlight
  • Fearlead – Cheerlead
  • Waste time – value time
  • Pass the buck – pass the ball
  • Cause stress – spread calm
  • Procrastinate – Instigate
  • Castigate – Collaborate
  • Instruct – Inspire
  • Sap energy – Zap energy
  • Create uncertainty – Foster fun

None of us is as strong as all of us.

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