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Leadership is about sense making, meaning that it is about making sense of that which makes no sense, and subsequently to expand this principle into the harnessing of our five senses to make sense of our world and develop the narrative.

Tanya Peterson draws an interesting link between senses and emotional quotient (EQ) when she says that a ‘multiple sensory approach to leadership could equate to emotional intelligence.’ In terms of developing a strong narrative, this sense-based approach enables us to connect at an emotional level with our client base, which displays both personal and organisational EQ, and effectively reveals our authenticity. In terms of the narrative, this would also better project the reality that we are genuinely concerned with and aware of: the clients’ needs.

At a recent visit to the Sydney Art Gallery I was privileged to see some art from a form called Fluxus. Fluxus is concept where an initial brief and piece of work is created and then others, staying true to the brief, create further pieces, interpreted from their own perspective. I was exhilarated – almost intoxicated – as I meditated on the concept of an initial artist, designer or visionary, whom others would follow using their own style, to create a more colourful and expansive narrative. The concept of viral art is inspiring and, of course, the correlation with leadership style is empowering. So I found myself asking the questions, ‘Do I give the people I lead creative licence to explore, express and mess with the narrative? Or do I micro manage and stifle creativity and potential?’

This caused me to consider how we could shift our narrative at Metamorphic to empower and encourage a generation of creative people to actually be participants, not just donors; to potentially develop what has been termed ‘a community of consumers’ (Hill and Rifkin, 1999). I admire some of the great companies that understand and operate from the ‘why’ factor, companies such as Apple and Harley Davidson. People don’t buy computers and motor cycles from these companies; they buy connection, they buy the image, the DNA. They buy the ‘why’. They buy into the narrative created by these cult-like companies. Douglas Atkin (2004) describes cult brands as ‘a brand for which a group of customers exhibit a great devotion or dedication. Its ideology is distinctive and it has a well–defined and committed community and its members often become voluntary advocates.’ That’s the client donor base I want to create, and maybe you do to! To do this we need to design a narrative that draws people into that type of relationship.

Recently at the Conservatory of Music in Sydney, Craig Scott talked about ‘ways of communication’ by using three clear terms: ‘collaboration, improvisation and creativity.’ All of these have a direct effect on the narrative and how we influence our individual future stories. Scott also discussed the concept of ‘call and response, when each of the jazz band took the lead at different times and the team filled, complemented and supported the main direction.’ This was another example of Fluxus at work and, once again, evidence of the direct correlation with developing a leadership style that genuinely encourages improvisation within vision-determined parameters; a celebration of diversity within unity.

At Metamorphic I refer to this style as the ‘roulette wheel’ of leadership. This is where everyone on our team is expected to pick up the leadership mantle when the opportunity is within their skill parameters – when their number comes up, so to speak – with the remainder of the team providing support and working to create a win.

Scott went on to further unpack the way improvisation plays out in a jazz band by discussing, ‘leadership and timing, use of resources efficiently, deliberate use and change of rhythm and momentum and the use of collective knowledge without getting off track or form but using improvisation to get there.’

So here an opportunity exists: An opportunity to release a generation of world changers, to design a new narrative, a narrative not seen before in the not-for-profit world – a narrative where it’s not about being seen, and it’s not about the ‘what’; it’s about the ‘why’.

In the words of Colin Powell (quoted by Cantwell 2012), ‘You can achieve a lot more in life if you don’t care who gets the credit.’

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