Author Brian Paradis Offers Exclusive Insights on How We Can Lead with Imagination

brian paradis

Imagination is the power to turn the ordinary into theextraordinary. Though often associated with childhood or relegated to those deemed as"creatives," Brian Paradis has spent his professional career experiencing the transformative effects of incorporating imagination into the workplace.

In his new book, Lead with Imagination: Regaining the Power to Lead and Live in a Changing World (Forefront Books, 2019), Brian Paradis, a senior partner with CSuite Solutions, shares the insights he's gained on his 30-year journey of leading with imagination, along with his failures and successes as he led Florida Hospital to a #1 U.S. News & World Report ranking for three years ina row, and he encourages readers to think outside the box as they embark ontheir own imagination-led journeys.

Q: Brian, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: how did you become a leader?

A: Reluctantly. It started with a desire to make a difference in the world. This desire was then disturbed by a developing belief that to be a difference-maker would require a degree of leadership. With that seed of a truth I went to work, engaging leaders with questions (some described it as interrogating), observing their behaviors and reading both leadership books and biographies of leaders. Next thing you know, I found myself in a place of formal leadership roles, with increasing levels of responsibility.

Q: What does it mean to lead with imagination?

A: Perhaps the best way to picture leading with imagination is to see your brain with two parts, your left and your right, but only the left is lit up. Our reality is that we have been conditioned to believe that it is our left brain, or the logical half, that is the business or leadership brain. I believe God created us with two halves of our brain so to lead with imagination is simply to lead with our whole self, our whole heart and yes, our whole brain.

Let's take another approach. Consider if every leadership problem were a nail. In this case possessing a hammer might be all that is needed if you want to be a successful leader. However, in a world with an increasing variety of both opportunities and challenge, think of these as screws (phillips and slotted, wood screws and metal, etc) we need a 12v power screwdriver. Imagination is like a power tool to propel our leadership to a next level.

Q: How can a leader harness the power of imagination to engage and inspire your workforce?

A: This is not a simple answer, but, it certainly starts with more fully engaging your own imagination and creativity. This starts with a process of discovery and truth-seeking about yourself and your leadership, then learning to be more creative and innovative, followed by getting focused on the results that matter most to you, your people and your organization.

Q: In your new book, you talked about the 7 major themes of leading with imagination. Briefly tell us what are they?

A: It might be helpful to create some context to anchor the 7 themes. The first set are primarily focused on your internal self. These include making the choice that you will lead from love as opposed to fear. Once this choice is made we must deal with our level of authenticity and perhaps even more challenging - our ego. This is followed by the environment we create around us with our leadership behaviors and then beyond to the larger team of people we lead. We then begin to make the transition to the external themes with the fourth theme of our willingness to be vulnerable and take right risks. The next three external themes are: tolerating curiosity, using the power of humor, and connecting the dots. In other words, doing whatever it takes to help our people succeed.

Q: How does leading with imagination foster innovation?

A: Imagination is about seeing the whole picture. A bit like learning to ride your bike. It is not a logical process. You make attempts, usually many, and then "all of a sudden" you are screaming, "look at me, I am doing it." Once we start to "see the picture" we move into a process of creative problem-solving which narrows down to the practical and useful outcomes of functional innovations. What is often missed in this process is the importance of culture. Ed Catmull, the CEO of Pixar Studios states it this way, "Creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems."

Q: At the heart of imagination is love. How is love important in business and beyond?

A: Love is the force and focus of leading with imagination. In the book, we talk about how love is power and powerful. It gives us power in the choices we must make as leaders. And it is powerful to engage, inspire and motivate those we lead. We talk about how it makes everything better, from our classrooms to our doctors offices to nearly everything involving human interaction. But - spoiler alert, it's hard to do. Most leaders never attempt to lead with love, and this creates a fantastic opportunity for those brave enough to join in this journey.

Q: How will your book help people who are in leadership and those who are not in leadership?

A: First, let me share a growing conviction; we are all leaders, in some realm. I hope that will encourage a group of people who have not seen their worth in this way. From this thought, Lead with Imagination is full of real stories and experience (both failures and successes). It provides practical strategies and actions, as well as some humor and inspiration to make the decision to invest in yourself an easier one. In the end, the book is more of a road map for your leadership adventure (and it is indeed that) than a checklist and list of to-do's. This book is about opening yourself up to the power of imagination - to be able to see what isn't there yet, to then be able to overcome much to achieve the result(s) you want. After all, imagination is the key to victory. 

To purchase the book, click here.


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