Leadership 2020

17 November 2015

Posted By artgym

Artgym CEO Eugene Hughes discusses 5 ideas for leaders to reflect on



As I’m writing this I’m actually sitting on the side of a mountain in a location that can only be described as ‘remote’. Yet I am more connected to people in the world than I could have ever been 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. OK, we may all know this but what is emerging along side our growing connectivity is that we are also becoming more and more independent. Take the US workforce for example, over 40% are soloists – independent workers not directly employed by any one business. As I sit here on a rock, I can run an international business and in many ways I am just as efficient and effective as I am most days in my London office. So, our ability to be so connected is enabling us to be more and more independent.

Thats why to be a successful organisational leader, on the one hand you must embrace people’s growing desire for independence, empower people to be free spirits. Whilst on the other hand, you must keep people connected in interesting and meaningful ways.


The ability to connect through technology is only going to get stronger. If current trends continue we’ll become more and more independent as well. And I believe that being independent doesn’t just mean physically or financially independent of organisational entities but psychologically independent too.

The dependency dynamic that has existed between employee and organisation is shifting. One of the implications of being highly connected soloists is that we must all become leaders in our own right. Whether I am an employee of a large global organisation or a one-person-band operating out of my living room, to thrive in this new dynamic I need to learn how to lead myself, and fast.

This ‘linked-indies’ phenomenon is very interesting when we think of it in the context of organisational leadership. How do you lead people who want to be more and more independent?


For some the ‘linked-indie’ phenomenon is a very exciting proposition: ‘wow, I’m my own boss’, ‘I call the shots’ and then for others it might feel less so. And the skills that support us in this highly ambiguous environment are different too. Some of the basics will always be useful but fundamentally it’s your own inner resourcefulness and active imagination that are being called upon. Information is everywhere so it is no longer about what you know but what you can create with that information that counts. We are rapidly leaving the information age and entering the age of creativity.  Information isn’t power, your imagination is. And if you want to effectively lead yourself, embracing, nurturing and growing your own creativity is key.

An interesting symptom of this: in 2010, there were on average 250 million photo uploads every day. In 2015, there are 2 billion uploads on average per day. The image is taking dominance in how we communicate as human beings. From a neurological perspective, we have to consider if our capacity to conceptualise is becoming as important to us as our need to analyse. Further symptomology is found in how more left-brain dominated organisations struggle to keep up with a more right-brain approach to business.


Recent research shows that people feel a far stronger sense of connection when they have a sense of meaning and purpose. We have to consider this in the context of  shocking statistics that report over 50% of the global workforce feel disconnected from their leaders. An essential question for leaders to ask is how to connect people through a shared sense of purpose. Of course a shared vision is different to a shared ideology  – the dangers of which we have witnessed around the world  – but at a minimum people want a sense of contributing to something that matters above and beyond their wage.

Successful organisational leaders of the future will respect our desire to be free spirits, embrace our creativity and seek to keep us connected in interesting, and importantly, meaningful ways.


The stereotypical figure of the organisational leader as King, usually male, who sits in his ivory tower, dealing with analysts and shareholders still exists. In truth, this will probably continue in some instances. But, and this is a very big but, this is a high-risk strategy for any organisational leader. As I sit on the side of a mountain writing this, of course I need to tell people where I am but more importantly for me to survive as a leader I need to tell people who I am. People need to have a feeling of connection to me, they need to have a strong sense of what I stand for as a human being, why I lead. Leaders have to reveal themselves to survive. But here’s the really interesting thing, as the internet enters a new age of its development, from a 3D reality to 4D and beyond, maybe the internet will tell you who you are or at the very least tell you who people want you to be.

“To be a successful organisational leader, on the one hand you must embrace people’s growing desire for self-expression, empower people to be free spirits. And you must also keep people connected in interesting and most importantly meaningful ways.”

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Eugene Hughes is the CEO at Artgym and a Psychologist specialising in imagination and creativity. He has won many international…