The Art of Intentional Leadership

Empty seats at a conference

Thoughts and Musings from

Wisdom 2.0

Wisdom 2.0 is a conference that’s all about living with mindfulness and wisdom in the digital age, and it’s a rare breed of conference that feeds the mind, body and soul. It may seem counterintuitive to have a conference where business, technology and mindfulness meet, given the social critique of how much time we spend in front of screens, but a lot of tech leaders are aware of the blessing and curse of technology and are encouraging greater mindfulness. It can just as easily connect us around the globe as it can disconnect us from the life in front of us.

Wisdom 2.0 gave me a lot to process, created loads of new ideas, allowed me to make amazing connections, and I could go on… but for now I’ll focus on a few of the big lessons I got out of being there. Here are the highlights of what I took away as a teammate, leader, marketer and digital enabler:

As a Teammate

What’s your job? That was the opening question from LinkedIn VP, Fred Kofman. He challenged us by stating that many of us don’t know what our job is—and he was there to prove it. Kofman ran through a few examples from soccer. What’s the job of the goalie? To stop goals. What’s the goal of the offensive players? To score? But when you look at a picture of the team, what’s their job? To win. So… what is every person on the team’s job? To help the team win.

This may not be ground-breaking stuff, but I loved the simple breakdown of such a simple truth.

As a Leader

One of my favourite talks was from George Mumford, author of The Mindful Athlete: The Secret to Pure Performance, sports psychologist, and mindfulness teacher to Michael Jordan, Shaq, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and more. He had a lot of great insights to share, but working in a fast-paced business, one line really stuck with me.  

“Slow motion gets you there quicker.” Mumford talked about mindfulness as the space between effort and poise, insight and faith, stimulus and response. This is a fast-paced business and an industry that’s ever changing, and this is a great reminder to make more deliberate movements for even better results.

My other favourite talk was with Stewart Butterfield, fellow Canadian and gamer, and CEO of Slack. As someone who believes that finding the right people makes all the difference, I really appreciated what he had to say about Slack’s hiring criteria, which are simple:

  • Empathy

  • Curiosity

  • Diligence

There’s obviously more to it than that, but those traits are all a great place to start. Butterfield had some particularly interesting things to say about empathy. It's an obvious need in a service job where you have to understand where someone's coming from in order to sell to them or help them when they're frustrated. His point was that empathy is critical in all roles, from front of the house to creative to making things work. He asked, "how can you make something for someone if you can't have empathy for them," and likened the role of a designer to that of a good host.

Honourable mention here goes again to Kofman, who talked further about effective leadership. In a race, the person isn’t in the lead, but is ahead simply by being closer to the end/purpose. The leader may set the purpose, but the team has to move toward it.

As a Marketer

Wellness 2.0 was full of great reminders, like the importance of building personal connections and listening to different perspectives in order to make those connections. There were a couple of great examples of marketing and storytelling that entertained and inspired me.

Justin Bogardus, who opened with a question. Does nature have a marketing problem? When we talk about the planet, we often talk about what we’re losing rather than what we stand to gain, and Bogardus wanted to flip that on its head, so told a positive story about what we have to gain with a pharmaceutical ad spoof for NatureRX, reminding us that connecting in nature is the original hero’s journey.

Danae Ringleman, founder of Indiegogo, told a story about the Girl Scouts of Washington, They received a $100K donation from a single donor with the caveat that the money could not go to support trans girls. With the stance that Girl Scouts is #ForEVERYGirl, the Girl Scouts took to Indiegogo and raised the value of their initial gift…TIMES THREE!

As a Digital Enabler

In my agency work, the emphasis is on storytelling and enabling. With that in mind, I was inspired by quite a few of the discussions and speakers, including:

  • Facebook’s compassion team. They use the tools that are already there to create dialogue, and continue to make helpful changes to support people during tough moments, including responding to suicidal ideation with support for the person who is struggling and the people who care about them, memorializing the accounts of people who have passed with sensitivity to those who are grieving, and giving options to address a breakup, whether you’re happy to stay connected or would like to take a break (ProTip: you can use the same for friends or family members if you need a little space).

  • Slack. I’ve already talked about it, but thought it was particularly cool that Slack came about after Butterfield’s team tried to build an MMO and that didn’t work out. Slack was developed by the team to help them communicate internally, and Butterfield talks about Slack’s ability to combat a couple of major issues in the work environment: lack of lateral transparency (i.e., “I don’t want people to know I don’t know the answer to this questions, so I’m going to ask it in private”) and hoarding information as a means of control.

  • Muse. If you’re into meditation and/or tech, it’s a pretty neat tool. The Muse headband measures your brain activity while you listen to a meditation soundtrack and alters what you hear based on how active or relaxed you are.

  • Inner Explorer. It’s a web application that was built in Ann Arbor, MI, to bring mindfulness to the classroom (and even allow parents to participate from home). The teachers, parents and students have all found the programming to be hugely positive, and the application makes it easy to bring mindfulness.

Dave Morin. After leaving Facebook and founding Path, which ultimately didn’t live up to its potential in the market, Morin co-founded Slow Ventures, which invests in tech for the longer-term, often with purpose and meaningful connections in mind.

A Bonus Nugget of Wisdom

It was tough to round up all of the different bits of information and inspiration that came out of Wisdom 2.0, which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider that it was a conference where so many ideas collide. It’s even tougher to wrap it all up with a bow, so instead, I’ll leave you with this bit of advice from George Mumford: All moments are big game moments. We have to pay attention because we don’t know when an event is going to be a big event until we’re in it.

In my case, Wisdom 2.0 was a precursor to one of my biggest moments at my company, rTraction. When I touched down in London, I took a look at my phone to find that we had finally made it as a certified B Corp.