Rebel Leadership: Thriving In Uncertain Times With Curiosity And Adaptability With Larry Robertson

The entire world was put to a stop when the pandemic hit, and the disruption called for a change in terms of how leaders adapt. Larry Robertson’s Rebel Leadership was the answer. Larry is an innovation advisor with his work centered around creativity, entrepreneurship, and leadership. In this episode, he joins Dr. Diane Hamilton to discuss this innovative framework for how leaders can and should work with their team to overcome unexpected obstacles. He shares insights from his latest book, Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times, to expound on the concept and give thoughtful advice to listeners.

TTL 884 | Rebel Leadership


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Larry Robertson here. He works at the nexus of creativity, entrepreneurship and leadership. He’s a great author and someone I’ve been following for quite a while. I’m excited to have him on the show.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Rebel Leadership: Thriving In Uncertain Times With Curiosity And Adaptability With Larry Robertson

I am here with Larry Robertson, who’s a Fulbright Scholar and award-winning author of three books including Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times. It’s so nice to have you here, Larry.

Diane, I’ve been looking forward to this. Thank you for the opportunity.

You’re welcome. I have, too. We’ve had chances to chat a couple of times here and there in different ways. I never got a chance to go into real depth on some of the stuff you’re working on. I was looking forward to this as well. Thank you for all your recommendations by the way. I used your designer, Vanessa, to design my book on Cracking the Curiosity Code so that was thanks to you.

I’m a big fan of Vanessa’s and I’m a big fan of sharing resources. It’s funny and I know you’ll know this, a lot of times when we’re breaking new ground like a first book or whatever it might be, we stumble down the path and we learn what works and what doesn’t. One of my favorite things to do is to save people that rough part of the journey and get them to someplace that’s productive.

I look back, I’ve changed my first three book covers five times and I couldn’t stand any of them. I finally used Vanessa and I’m like, “I love that.” I designed one myself, believe it or not. I kept trying to get something and I liked it. I thought, “I’ll send her this and then she’ll probably do something similar,” so I ended up keeping it. I want to get to know more about you. For people who are reading who haven’t, I don’t know how they couldn’t because you’re a bestselling author and you’re everywhere. If they don’t know your backstory, could you give us a little bit about how you got to this point?

I’d be happy to. I refer to myself as an innovation advisor. What that means is that the heart of what I do is centered around three areas. Creativity, entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial thinking and leadership. Those things fuse together in whatever I’m doing as an innovation advisor. For my clients, when I’m consulting and advising the leaders of businesses of all different sizes who are anticipating growth, want to find ways to grow struggling with it, whatever it might be, I’m bringing together those three elements to talk to them about strategy, growth and managing people.

When I’m researching one topic area feeds the other and obviously, those things feed both my books, my columns and things of that nature. What I find is that in order to get the best out of any 1 of those 3 things that we all admire, in some way, creativity, the entrepreneurial spirit leadership, they need one another.

My background, even though it started in entrepreneurship, meaning I worked for an investment organization that was investing in early-stage entrepreneurs and then I advised entrepreneurs and I was part of startup teams. Even though that was my starting point, it evolved through to creativity because that’s the origin of a lot of entrepreneurial thinking but also to leadership.

[bctt tweet=”A lot of the failures among entrepreneurs are because they never evolve to become leaders.” username=””]

Many of those entrepreneurs do not succeed and that is the majority of them, part of the reason they don’t succeed is not that they don’t have skills or great ideas, not even because they don’t have assets including a good team,  financial resources or whatever. A lot of the failures among entrepreneurs are because they never evolve to become leaders. They’re great at generating those ideas out of the gate and they’re great at pushing through adversity, creating change and so on but leadership eventually is what it’s all about. Creating that environment where not only they can ideate and lead but everybody can.

You said so many important things there and I want to go into a lot of them because it’s important to touch on those three areas. I’m going to see how those overlap a lot in what I research as well. You mentioned some of the columns and I want to make sure everybody checked out your columns because you write with Fast Company, CEOWorld Magazine, Productive Flourishing, SmartBrief, Thrive Global, I was looking at some of the lists, Inc. is number one, you’re always on Inc. It’s fun to read your articles. I’ve seen you in creativity posts and many more.

I appreciate that. Thanks for mentioning it.

You’re welcome. Because you do so many amazing things that tie into creativity, I like creativity discussions on the show and how it ties into curiosity. I would like to get into that with you to some extent, too. It would also be fun to see your latest book, Rebel Leadership and how it ties into perception. We’ve got plenty to chat about.

Your audience knowing your first book and you’re focused on curiosity and my second book, having focused on creativity will probably sense the logical overlaps there. I totally agree with you, this book Rebel Leadership and your book, Perception Paradox. I feel so many overlaps in that area. I found the book that you and Maja did together. It’s powerful. I’d love to talk about those crossovers.

Dr. Maja Zelihic is also a Fulbright Specialist and I know that you and I overlap. I didn’t even know you knew the Forbes people when you and I used to talk. I was very impressed with your book on creativity, The Language of Man: Learning to Speak Creativity. It was something that I reached out to you and we had been chatting and then about a year later, I run into you where I was the former MBA Pogram Chair at the Forbes School of Business.

I ran into one of the events and apparently you know another guest of the show, Bob Daugherty. It was great to see the overlap and I saw you’ve been speaking for them. They’re part of the University of Arizona’s Global Campus and they’re doing some amazing things. I saw you on the list so I see you do a lot of speaking as well. I want to talk about your book and what you’re talking about in groups now. What made you want to write Rebel Leadership, to begin with?

I find it’s such an interesting question when you’re someone like me who has written other books before because the motivation for the first book, which is focused on entrepreneurship was I had said to myself secretly and openly over many years, “I’d like to write a book.” Actually writing that first book, as much as I was deeply interested in the topic and felt people had not really peeled back the layers and asked what entrepreneurship is. In a similar way, we don’t tend to step back and say, “What is creativity? What is leadership?” We just roll forward.

TTL 884 | Rebel Leadership
Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times

One of the motivations for that first book was to put up or shut up. If I’m going to write a book then this is it or I should stop saying that. By the time I got to this last book, Rebel Leadership, it was less of motivation and more of a sense of something missing. A Deliberate Pause was focused on entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial universe, as I call it. The book is really focused on, “What is entrepreneurship? Who is truly behind it? What makes it lasting?”

The book on creativity added to that and in both books, I kept referencing the importance of leadership and understanding it and the value of effective leadership or the failure of creativity or entrepreneurial ventures if you lacked leadership in them but it had always been a side note. In my head, there has always been a desire to focus on leadership in a book. What drove it home was the uncertain environment in which we’re living.

This book was conceived long before COVID. When I talk about uncertainty and when I talk about that being the motivation to talk about leadership, I’m talking about an uncertain past twenty years. This entire century to date has been, as people often say about it, it’s a VUCA period of time, which stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

What people fail to appreciate is while you may have heard that term out there, while you may have sent certain volatility here, there or somewhere else. What’s missing in our analysis of the times we live in is that the times are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous all the time. Not here and there. Not just occasionally and then we get back to this new normal. We live in a new abnormal, as I put it. Leadership has to be different in those circumstances so that was the primary motivation.

It’s fascinating to talk about the process. A lot of authors have been on the show whether they were writing before, after or during. After we found out about COVID, a lot of things are constantly the same issue whether we have COVID going or not. It’s just putting a big magnifying lens on it. I know in your book you write about what lies at the heart of success no matter how much the environmental conditions might change. Did you add anything based on COVID or did you have time to even do that?

The answer to the first question is, absolutely, I did because what’s interesting about COVID is that it is the first kind of uncertainty in this relatively new century that everyone experienced. It was universal. It was shared. There’s not a single part of the world that didn’t impact in some way. It would have been an error to leave that out.

I also was very careful to point out that uncertainty does not equal COVID. That COVID is just one example and there’s a lot of talk these days about post-pandemic, whether you take that and say, “We are post-pandemic,” which is not true or you assume that it’s coming soon. That there’s this finish line ahead of us, neither interpretation is true. This uncertainty is going to continue.

That’s the really important thing to recognize. What’s fascinating to me, Diane is that there seems to be a substantial lack of recognition of that, particularly among leaders. In May 2021, McKinsey put out a report called The Resilience Imperative. What they were trying to make the case for was, they said, “The world is undergoing increasingly rapid, unpredictable and unprecedented change.” What they were seeing is that across industries, most companies and most leaders remain persistently focused on the near term and the medium term.

[bctt tweet=”We live in a new abnormal, and leadership has to be different in those circumstances.” username=””]

Along with this assumption that we will return to normal, in the months since they’ve called it the finish line paradox. Leaders, when they’re speaking publicly talk about, “We’re going to solve this pandemic problem, not only soon but we will solve it in a lasting way.” That we can reach some kind of finish line.

The irony is when they survey employees, anybody below the C-Suite level, overwhelmingly, they don’t see it that way. They think their leaders are out of touch with what reality is. Leaders intend to do a good thing when they talk about this finish line and certainty. The perception of the people they lead is that “You’re missing what’s happening here and if you’re missing it, I’m not going to stick around too long.”

I talked to Francesca Gino, about this very topic of her research that was published in HBR about curiosity and she found it when she researched leaders. A lot of them felt they were encouraging curiosity but quite a bit less of their employees believed that they were. That made me interested in researching perception and that’s why I could see the overlap of a lot of what you’re talking about and what Maja and I researched.

Trying to put yourself in somebody else’s vantage point can be challenging for people. That was one of the reasons we studied perception because you’re working in this global climate and you want to do business in different countries and everybody’s seeing things in completely unique ways. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence and to me, it keeps coming back to empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence. Did you get into emotional intelligence at all in your work?

It’s there in every element of this new book but not called out in that sense. It’s not because of any negative associations or connotations around it but more to say, between two people you and me, who understand emotional intelligence and know the value of it, in fact, the criticality of it, that’s great. Other people don’t relate to it. It’s a negative term for them.

I wanted to show in this book the power and the importance of emotional intelligence, not just among leaders but within cultures across an organization, a team, whatever it might be but to show it differently. To show how it plays in and how it impacts things like resilience and the ability to adapt, innovation, creativity and so on. To show that the absence of it in a more detailed sense, can be a downfall especially in an environment that is uncertain as I described earlier.

I heard an interview that you and Maja did on The Perception Paradox. You were asked something along the lines of, “Why did you write this particular book?” I loved what you, in particular, said, “It was a reality check on why we do what we do and what in fact has impact, works and not just our perception of those things.” Rebel Leadership is the same. It’s that combination of why we do what we do internally, for who we are it no matter what the setting is. Adding to that, for Rebel Leadership is this uncertain setting around us means we need to double down on understanding why we do what we do and what drives our behavior and our perception.

I love that you brought up the negative connotation of emotional intelligence to some people. I hear the same things with soft skills and certain things even when I was talking to Daniel Goleman on the show. He’s in mindfulness more now but our perception of wording is fascinating. When you’re talking about Rebel Leadership, the perception of what a rebel leader is. Does Steve Jobs come to mind? What comes to mind for people when they hear the word rebel? Were you trying to invoke a sense of somebody with that title? What were you hoping that that word would do for people?

TTL 884 | Rebel Leadership
Rebel Leadership: What’s missing in our analysis of the times we live in is that the times are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous all the time.


There were really two primary drivers for that title. The first one is that the words rebel and leadership are ones that whether we know it or not, we already have associations with. They are both extremely positive and negative. In a way, putting both of those words together in a new term is going to call out your preexisting default perception of either one. You may be attracted to it or you may be put off by it but you’re certainly going to be curious about it.

The primary reason for putting the two words together is that now, in a fast-moving environment, we need the best of both. The rebel part of Rebel Leadership isn’t the person who’s disrupting for the sake of disruption. It’s the person who’s open. It’s the person who lives by a mindset of inquiry. It’s the person who is adaptable and realizes the need to continue to adapt, to continue to be your best. That’s what I’m emphasizing within the book when I use the word rebel.

Leadership is the same. It is not that one individual at the top of a pyramid who because of their position and power, is dictating to the rest of us and we just need to get in line. The best leaders are those who create environments where everybody is asked, expected and supported in stepping up to lead. When you put the two together in this book, that’s the meaning but there’s no question that when you first see it, it’s going to create some curious attraction to, “What the heck is this guy talking about?”

I definitely was very curious and you were talking about people being open and living by inquiry. That’s my whole thing. I was very interested in curiosity and I’m curious since you wrote about creativity as well, where do you think curiosity plays in the creativity process? Are you curious first to make you creative? How do you see it?

These things weave and wind together if you’re pursuing your creative capacity in the right way. Let me break that down. The first thing is, imagine for yourself and I’d ask your readers to imagine this. Imagine a pie chart. The pie chart has one tiny, thin slice in the middle of it. If I was to label that tiny, thin slice, it would be, “Those are the people who recognize that every one of us is creative and they pursue their creative capacity.” The rest of the pie chart are the rest of us who’ve been wrongly told we’re not creative.

There’s this capacity within each one of us to create and the core of that is curiosity. We’re born curious, learners and thinking about the future. I mean, Daniel Gilbert famously said in his book that, “The human being is the only species that we know of that can think about the future.” Not just project, as we come into a similar scenario, what happened based on the last one but to project a future where the components of it even the things that will create it might not exist yet.

We’re innately curious but most of us are deeply out of practice. We’re told that’s frivolous or we’re told that only certain people are creative and therefore can be curious. We’re told, “These are the rules. Follow the rules. Here are the rewards.” By the way, they don’t include anything creative. Curiosity is at the heart of all this and the key to curiosity for me is that inquiring mindset ongoing.

Mindset came up a lot. Carol Dweck’s work was a big factor in what I researched. When I was looking at the creativity aspect, it tied in well to curiosity. I would love to ask George Landon, Sir Ken Robinson and others about their insights as well because I used a lot of that to compare.

If there’s wonderful overlap, too. We’re in different but overlapping spaces and so I was honestly encouraged to see that you were looking at some of the same places I was but also that you looked in places and into people that I hadn’t which allowed me the room to learn more. I certainly looked into Sir Ken Robinson’s work and I got the chance to meet and interview Carol Dweck about growth mindset.

[bctt tweet=”There’s a capacity within each of us to create, and the core of that is curiosity.” username=””]

What was interesting, Diane is that I did that for Rebel Leadership because one of the things that I wanted to break through was, a lot of times the focus on creativity or the focus on curiosity, is on the individual. What are we each individually capable of? What habits should we pursue to be more curious or creative?

Fundamentally, if organizations need to adapt in a changing world and they need to adapt all the time, those organizations need to be growth-oriented, as Carol would put it. They need to have that mindset. They need to be collectively curious about what’s working, what’s not and what they might do differently.

Part of the reason I spoke to Carol was to say, “Most of your research over almost 30 years has been largely focused on the individual as it relates to the growth mindset. Do you think that carries to groups and to organizations?” She said she thought that it absolutely did. I use that as an entry point to say that some of the things that you talk about in The Power of Perception and The Curiosity Code, that I talked about in my books that could be interpreted as, “How do you individually advance yourself to become more curious?” Whatever it might be is applicable at the group or the social level as well.

I’d love to talk to Carol Dweck. She’s amazing. A lot of this work is important. What was interesting to me in all the research I did when I started to write, I wanted to fix it. “Where are the assessments that fix this?” I was surprised there weren’t. There were things that would measure for example your level of curiosity that tell you if you had high or low but if you had low then what. It’s like the big five, you can know if you’re open to experience or not but then what.

That’s what was interesting to me was to find out what inhibits things. With curiosity, it was fear, the voice in your head, your assumptions, technology and over and underutilization of it in our environment. That tied into what George Land and Ken Robinson were saying with creativity. Ken Robinson was saying how have we educated ourselves out of our competencies. I saw that a lot in the working world. When you write about Rebel Leadership, you write about patterns and different things. Didn’t you say there were five patterns? Did I remember that?

Yes, that’s correct. There were five insights that I had pulled not just from research and interviews but looking back to the research for the previous two books. If you think about it, go all the way back to my first book, which was aimed at entrepreneurship, these are people who create change in the world. In Rebel Leadership, I’m talking about a changing world and a changing environment ongoing. What better reference point to have than those people who have been part of the disruption along the way? They’re actively trying to change the world. It was looking back at that broader spectrum and thinking about change.

It is going to be interesting to see what we see with generational changes too. I was in the Mad Men world and things have changed quite a bit since I entered the workplace. I noticed the older I get, the less I put up with things. I tend to speak up more and not be intimidated at all anymore. That’s one of the good things. Do you find that you get stronger, more rebel leadership qualities as you age? What does the generational impact have on this?

We’re at an interesting point in time. I don’t know if you know the author and futurist Tom Koulopoulos. He’s written well over a dozen books. He wrote this one particular book called the Gen Z Effect. He made lots of wonderful observations and points in that book but one of the key points that stood out for me in that book was the fact that there are two parts to what you asked about. As people move on through time, as they gain experience, as they’re aging along the way, many of them see less idealistically and more realistically about what works. They have the experience to back that up to know.

They too, like you’re describing yourself and I would describe myself, develop a certain level of impatience but in the sense of, “Let’s cut to the chase on what works.” What Tom was saying is that’s an important lesson that those who’ve been around for a while and are still in the workforce have to impart on those who are coming into it. He said, “Equally powerful and equally valuable is this new generation that’s coming into the workforce.” They are leaders now or they will be leaders and they perceive the world in such a different way than I, you and many leaders at senior levels grew up in.

TTL 884 | Rebel Leadership
Rebel Leadership: The rebel part of rebel leadership isn’t the person who’s disrupting for the sake of disruption. It’s the person who’s open, who lives by a mindset of inquiry, who is adaptable and realizes the need to continue to adapt to continue to be your best.


That perception that they have, that sensitivity to difference, the importance of social issues, the importance of diversity, inclusion and equity. Things of that nature are often lost on those in senior positions who know functionally how an organization can work better and want to get to that but are missing out on some of these other elements that actually make people feel a sense of purpose in their work. Want to come to work. Want to give the best they have.

What Tom is saying in the Gen Z Effect is that we’re in this moment where we need the skills of the many. This is core to the rebel leadership idea. One of the five insights of rebel leadership is that leadership moves. I’ll give you a quick analogy. If you think of ancient human tribes, anywhere on the globe, did those groupings of people have achieved? Yes, in many cases they did.

On any particular day, was the chief always the leader? No. On certain days, it was the medicine woman. In other moments, it was the warriors. It could be the gatherers. It could be the people who were responsible for telling the tribe when it was time to move seasonally from territory to territory. The reason those ancient groups work so well was that they allowed leadership to move. They allowed different people with different skills and backgrounds to rise to the moment and provide what the group needed most.

What’s so fascinating about your question is the rebel leadership organizations that are thriving in these uncertain times, they do that. They allow that leadership to move all the way from that senior person who has just the sense of how to do things organizationally and cut right to the chase on that but also to those who are just coming in who have a perception that the organization needs and lacks.

That’s interesting because I’m thinking of all the courses I teach. I still teach for many different universities and I have a lot of courses that deal with servant leadership. It’s an upside-down pyramid more, holding people up rather than dictating down. As I was thinking about this, the teams and everything I’ve seen with Millennial leadership, a lot of them would rather be just a go-to person for expertise than trying to tell you what to do. What do you think, as far as the old Jack Welch way of leading, would that work in nowadays society in terms of leadership? Are we changing so much? For me, respect is a huge thing. That’s the one thing that if I don’t have, I will leave. I don’t think the older Mad Men days we saw as much respect. I’d like to get your insight on that.

If we were to cast our gaze backward in time. Let’s talk about the Jack Welch era, not even necessarily him. There was a demand for respect, which is quite a bit different from how I think of respect and how it sounds like you do as well. Respect is something that comes to oversimplify because you’ve earned it because you’re respectful in return. Respect is not the primary thing you’re seeking, it is an output of not just what you’re seeking but how you go about doing it.

For a long time, we associated respect with the position, with the title, with the power that went with that and with the position at the top of a particular pyramid in a similar way. From the time we’re in elementary school and there’s a teacher in the front of the room who’s telling us the path or what to do. All the way up to when we graduate from school,  we enter a job, we’re trained and we’re told what our job description is and where we fit in the pyramid, we are taught to think of there being a big equal sign between the word leader and leadership.

The truth is leadership is a capacity and it’s a capacity that everyone has. It is not the title. It cannot be the individual if you’re going to thrive in an uncertain world. Having said that, we have these massive forces, which pull us back to thinking, “A-ha, you have to be at the top to have respect. You have to be at the top to lead. You even have to be at the top to be given the right to be curious and to be creative, the rest of us are just supposed to follow.” You have to unbundle those pieces to talk about the different elements like respect and leadership.

It is interesting to watch the changes. I have to admit that I have worked in so many industries, everything from hospitality, artwork, to selling computers, being in pharmaceuticals, real estate and finance, you name it. I’ve worked in just about every industry, mostly in education in my older work history. Every industry is so unique. I even worked in agricultural chemicals. It fascinates me to see how different it can be by industry. It’s got to be hard for people to be in a certain industry where there’s a norm of behavior that wouldn’t fly in another industry. How do you switch from one to the other and be as successful of a leader in another as you are in the one you’re in?

[bctt tweet=”The coin of the realm is the ability to adapt.” username=””]

This is the appropriate time to take a backward glance. If we were talking about a past time, even just pre COVID but going back into the twentieth century, it was hard. It’s hard to do that. Why? There’s a psychologist. He talks about this idea of two different environments in the world out there. There are kind environments and there are unkind environments. Kind environments are those that the rules are clear. The data comes in frequently and it’s consistent and you’re able to predict. Out of that, you can reliably develop a path forward, almost a formulaic way to approach things, including how you lead, behave and rise within certain industries as you’re describing.

An unkind environment is quite different. The rules are changing all the time, they even moved the goalposts. Rules aside, where we’re headed and how we get there can be unclear. There are patterns in unkind environments but the underlying elements and the assumptions that go with them change all the time. We have to think in almost these more framework ways as I would say rather than these formulaic ways.

In the past, if you were trying to go from industry A that had a particular formula to how things work there, how you succeeded and how you moved up through the ranks to another industry that had a completely different one, it seems almost an impossible task. Now, the coin of the realm is the ability to adapt. It’s this environment that we live in so the question is, “How does any industry and anybody in any particular industry succeed in that larger environment around us?”

The skills that lean towards success in this broader uncertain environment are transferable. That opportunity to go from one sector to another is still a challenge because there’s institutional knowledge, habits and deep knowledge data there. At the same time, from a leadership standpoint, this ability to turn adaptation into a competitive advantage and to make that a cultural thing, we’re going to see a lot more of that transferable from one place to the next.

It comes up a lot in the courses I teach about the challenges of going through mergers. I teach a lot of change management courses and entrepreneurship courses. All you’re talking about comes up in all this. I remember after I left AstraZeneca after being with them for many years. I went into another organization, a completely different industry. It’s good to get different perspectives from different industries and different sizes of organizations.

I went from the fourth largest chemical company at one point. There are two people in the office with me on the next one because I wanted to try something completely different. I got a different perspective. Going into the education industry was completely different than anything I had ever expected. You get this sense of confidence when you’re in whatever industry you’re in and you think, back to perception, “This is how it should be or this is the world.” When you switch it, you go, “Where did this come from?”

A book like yours is so important because you’re bringing up so many things. I wish I had known early on how different it was. I’ve been in many different settings. In some companies means, you suffer endless death by PowerPoints. Other ones, you learn all kinds of stuff. You just don’t know until you switch around. What do you tell the young person getting into the business world if all they know is what they’re in now?

I have a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old in 2021 so they’re right on the cusp. One is in his first job and the other is not far from it. The work world that my oldest knows is only that. He’s done this for a few months. This ability to think beyond that setting is hard especially when you spend that many hours a day there. Having said that, this rising generation in the workforce realizes what the dynamics are in the environment of work, not just the environment around us in ways that some of us who’ve been around a long time, don’t appreciate as fully.

As an example, Microsoft and LinkedIn did an interesting study of 30,000 leaders. There’s the power of LinkedIn. They did it in the spring of 2021. Some of the trend lines that they found are interesting. I would argue that those who are newer to the workforce, represent them, understand them and are reflecting them in the way they do work better than most of us.

TTL 884 | Rebel Leadership
Rebel Leadership: The best leaders are those who create environments where everybody is asked, expected, and supported in stepping up to lead.


One of those patterns is flexible work is here to stay. It was something that those coming into the workforce were demanding, it’s something that COVID made a necessity. The second thing they’re realizing is that this sense of high productivity, even during COVID, is masking an exhausted workforce. What that says is that the way we work, not only is changing but it has to change in a greater way so that we can continue to have that high productivity without exhausting the workforce.

This is another interesting trend. Talent is everywhere in a flexible, hybrid world. Thinking about who works for you, where they work, how you tap them as talent and what they need in return is something that the younger portion of our workforce is thinking about all the time. Those who are managing workforces are not thinking about as much.

In fact, one of the trends that this Microsoft and LinkedIn study found was that leaders are out of touch with their employees, where they’re coming from and that they need a wake-up call. I’m quite encouraged about those who are coming up in terms of how do they keep an open mindset about where they’re going to go.

As a parent, I’m still trying to figure out what is the right messaging to say, “Now is not the rest of your life. Now is just this one moment. Take in everything you can. Continue to be curious but don’t try to lock it down.” Maybe you’ve heard of Deborah Meier before, she’s an education reformer. She comes in and turns schools around or creates new models of schools. She has this approach that she takes how she works with teams, works on projects and everything. She calls it the 5 Habits of the Mind.

The 5 Habits of the Mind are these five questions that she’s constantly teaching those she works with older, younger or whatever to pursue. Without going into them, I’ll tell you that they are, how do we know what we know? That’s the first habit. Is there a pattern in asking that question? The third is some form of what-if question, which typically follows the exploration of your assumptions through how do we know what we know and the identification of patterns through the habit of. Is there a pattern?

How do we know what we know? Is there a pattern? What if? The fourth habit of the mind, is there another way? There’s always another way even if the way we know in this current job or the idea we’re in love with now is great at this moment, there’s always another way. The fifth habit of the mind is who cares?

The point I want to make about that is, the power of those questions is when they remain questions. Deb says that people always try to turn them into statements. Instead of how do we know what we know, it’s, “This is what we know.” Instead of is there a pattern it’s, “These are the patterns and how we’re pursuing things.” The power for not just young people as they go through different work environments and they evolved themselves, the power for everybody in the workforce is to keep that inquiry and those questions alive whether it’s the five habits or something else. We’re coming full circle here. We’re back to curiosity and question.

That was such a great tie-in to some of the things that I do, the training on the Curiosity Code Index that we deal with especially with assumptions that we make. That’s a great place for people to check that out. All that we talked about was so interesting, Larry, because it ties in well to so much that leaders are all looking for to talk about, adaptability. A lot of the things we hit on. This was such a great conversation. A lot of people are going to want to read your book, follow you and find out more. Is there anything you want to share before we end the show?

I want to give a nod to you and to Maja too. Perception is a leadership skill and a leadership quality. It’s not one of those things we stop and think about when we think about what makes for a great leader. Your readers are going to find similar things when they read Rebel Leadership to say, “I can see how that could be important but I didn’t think of it as a core leadership skill.” Both books like The Power of Perception and Rebel Leadership are not just repeats of things that are out there. They’re leadership books and insight books for a different point in time. That’s the additional thing I would put out there.

[bctt tweet=”Today is not the rest of your life. Today is just one moment. Take in everything you can, continue to be curious, but don’t lock it down.” username=””]

Thank you, Larry. It’s nice of you to bring up our work and it all ties in well. I hope everybody checks out your website. Do you want to list your website one more time?

The best way to find me and to learn about everything I’m doing is at my main website,

That’s easy. I hope people take some time to check out your site. This was fun. Thank you so much for being on the show.

It’s been a privilege and it was fun for me too, Diane.

We will have to do it again.

I’d like to thank Larry for being my guest. Larry is someone whose work I noticed a long time ago when I was researching my work with curiosity because his book on creativity was well written. I liked the style of his book so I reached out to him to find out who did his graphics, his cover and editing. We started to chat about different things and ran into each other at a couple of different events and things. I’ve followed his work for a while and have been impressed with all that he writes and all that he does. I’m excited that he’s got some new information out there. He was a great guest of the show.

TTL 884 | Rebel Leadership
Rebel Leadership: We are taught to think of there being a big equal sign between the word leader and leadership. The truth is that leadership is a capacity. And it’s a capacity that everyone has. It is not the title.


We get so many great guests on this show. It’s hard to keep up with all of them. It’s in the 1,400, 1,500 number range of guests and it’s amazing how much content and great information is on the website. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can go to You can go right to the blog at

On that site, in addition to airing on AM/FM and podcast stations, we also have tweetable moments. If you see something you like that you thought was a great thing to tweet, please tweet it out there for people, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re looking for information about curiosity, perception or any of the content that I deliver in my talks, in my books and everything else, it’s all there at the site. The drop-down menu is at the top for curiosity and perception are there. You can also find more at the bottom if you’re interested. There are more testimonials and information that you may not get from the top menu. Make sure you scroll down to see what else is on the site.

It’s fun on one of my pages because people who have been on the show, who I’ve met, I get to take pictures with them sometimes. They scroll across on the About page, take a look for that. Also, look at the Media page because there’s some great content there. I enjoyed my conversation with Larry. I thank him so much for being on the show. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.

Important Links:

About Larry Robertson

TTL 884 | Rebel LeadershipLarry Robertson is a recognized expert in creativity, entrepreneurship, and leadership, and as such, a highly sought after speaker, advisor, and facilitator in public, private, and academic forums. He writes recurring columns for Inc. Magazine and The Creativity Post, is a regular contributor to Fast Company, and has been featured on or in MSNBC, the Chicago Tribune, AdAge, SmartBrief, Productive Flourishing, a variety of podcasts, and elsewhere. He is the author of 2 award-winning books, which have earned a combined 16 honors. His first, “A Deliberate Pause: Entrepreneurship and its Moment in Human Progress”, has received wide acclaim for its unique and insightful look at how entrepreneurship works and for its accessible, actionable guidance about how each of us can tap this powerful force that enables humanity to progress. His newest, “The Language of Man. Learning to Speak Creativity,” has been described as “utterly captivating”, “a critical contribution”, “rare… and exactly what you want”, and “a remarkable book”.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take The Lead community today:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *