Matthew K. Cross: Leadership is science and art
Constant learning breaks our path to the future if we know what to learn, how to learn, and if we learn together.
Leadership is in full evolution and transformation. In time of rapid and profound change we are looking for landmarks, for inspiration and, why not, for golden formulas…
Matthew K. Cross is hereby sharing one such golden formula, while also teaching us what and how to learn.
Among Matthew’s guiding principles are John F. Kennedy’s words: „Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”, as well as one of Eminescu’s lyrics: „The world is the dream of our soul”, one of Matthew’s all-time favourites.
Matthew K. Cross is a world-renowned author and strategist, founder and CEO of the Leadership Alliance – a customized consulting firm working with Fortune 100 organizations and other elite institutions, such as Stanford University.
What thrills you, these days?
What thrills me these days is what’s thrilled me since I was a child: learning, distilling and sharing principles and practices that support greater meaning, performance and happiness. It’s a permanent high to be a catalyst to helping others awaken, align and activate their own natural genius. The amazement and delight I have in continuously learning about the vast power of our imagination to blueprint and invite our desired quality reality. And last yet never least, Nature at every level is also a never-ending and delightfully inspiring thrill.
I am amazed and delighted by the vast power of our imagination
to blueprint and invite our desired quality reality.
How has The Little Book of Romanian Wisdom come about? Do you have a favourite Romanian saying?
I conceived The Little Book of Romanian Wisdom as a gift, a bridge and a beacon. It is a gift to the Romanian people to honour their incredibly rich history, culture and contributions to the world; a bridge to share a meaningful sample of their vast wisdom with the rest of the world in the more universal language of English; and a beacon to remind Romanians of their rich heritage and potential.
In short, to inspire Romanians to wake up their sleeping greatness, look up, stand up and choose their brightest future. As my co-author, Diana Doroftei, says in the book, We live the life that we choose—which beautifully echoes one of my all-time favourites, from beloved Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu: The world is the dream of our soul.
Is there a golden-ratio, when it comes to leadership?
There are multiple key facets to the Golden Ratio leadership diamond. Let us remember that the Golden Ratio principle brings two or more parts together to form a greater whole, a prime definition of the state of synergy, as reflected in the Pythagorean 1+1=3 construct. The Golden Ratio (1.618:1, rounded to 1.62:1, 62:38 or roughly 60:40) supports maximum integration, harmony, effectiveness, flow and power.
Nature does not use an even 50:50 ratio to survive, grow and thrive; instead, she uses the dynamic 62:38 Golden Ratio as her formula for the structure of all matter and movement of all energy throughout the universe. And since we all come from Nature, we can align with Nature’s natural leadership power when we incorporate her preferred ratio in our lives, including the exercise of leadership.
A simple yet profound example is in communication: we have two ears and one mouth— essentially a 66:33 ratio. Tuned towards the Golden Ratio, this would indicate that we can be more effective if we strive to listen/reflect inwardly 62% of the time and speak/communicate outwardly 38% of the time.
Romanians need to wake up
their sleeping greatness.
In the process of self-discovery, of seeking what you call one’s genius, how do you stay authentic, resilient, and true to who you are?
By remembering daily where I’ve come from, where I am and where I am going. Where I’ve come from is remembering and doing my best to honour my ancestors, all the way up to my parents and family and also celebrate my rising from humble and challenging beginnings; where I am is appreciating the priceless gift of this moment and its limitless potential; where I’m going is to regularly affirm and visualize sharing my genius in the service of helping others re-connect and share their own genius.
It’s also about staying humbly and genuinely anchored to my deep belief that the best way I can help others to surface and share their genius is to commit to the same for myself.
Give us a few tips on aligning with one’s life energy and inborn gifts. I loved how you pointed out that it gives one a sense of all is right in the world and of all is becoming.
Get and be Present. On a daily basis breathe deeply with full consciousness vs. on autopilot. Breath is the open secret fuel to peak performance, leadership and a quality, long life. Meditate; consider flowing between no thought/clear mind meditation and more focused or creative visualization meditation. Regularly align with Nature, whose vast genius we are all a part of and carry within us.
Value yourself as your #1 multi-billion dollar client by INVESTING with care in yourself on a regular basis. For example, scheduling an uninterrupted hour every week to remember and celebrate past achievements and personal victories; writing down activities where you feel most alive, including where you receive AND share value. Most are near exclusively and obsessively focused on maximizing ROI—Return On Investment—in everything they do, in work and in life. Hardly anyone ever considers that the only way to have a healthy ROI in anything is to start with a smart IOR—Investment On Return.
How do you stay aware, in times of so rapid, profound and constant changes?
I endeavor to consistently practice what I call my B2B strategy—Back To Basics. This includes stepping back, above and away from myself around whatever specific challenge or opportunity I’m facing in my life or as a whole. This also works as a general practice: we know the benefits of stepping away from our daily life and routine, whether for hours, days or weeks, to gain enhanced perspective and awareness.
I also utilize my Expand Your Range approach: I seek to identify and light up blind spots in my awareness by asking for insights from key people in my inner circle to scenario planning best, likely and worst scenarios to secure greater awareness before taking action.
How is the digital era changing leadership? What does it mean to be a leader, now and in the future?
The Digital Age presents a series of fascinating paradoxes directly impacting leadership. For example, technology is speeding up communication with the explosion of texting, email, social media, etc.—yet all too often these channels slow down and compromise communication quality and cognition. Identifying and strategizing how to best address and transform these paradoxes into opportunities and assets is an increasingly vital role of leadership.
We must recognize that leadership:forward is not a position, title or set of rigid rules. It is instead an agile and adaptive mindset, grounded in predictive principles and continuous learning and closing of the “knowing-doing” gap. The art of leadership:forward is also the art of visionary time travel: the leader must imagine, visit and blueprint a brighter future—and bring that “North Star” future back to the present to share and reinforce daily with everyone they interact with. This makes the journey to the bright future all the more effective and rewarding.
What does success look like, for the modern leader?
Working on the right priorities in the right sequence at the right time. Working continuously smarter and happier vs. harder and less enjoyably; less stress/more results. Maintaining a healthy and dynamic balance and integration of all meaningful facets of life. Feeling daily deeply connected to our strengths, gifts and genius aligned with our passion, performance and potential. Knowing and growing our work and mission to make a difference in our own lives, all who we touch—and ultimately the world. Staying committed to Service Without Attachment—to serving others from the heart without expecting anything in return.
“The world is the dream of our soul”
What does humbleness add to leadership?
Everything. Humbleness opens a golden bridge which helps level the playing field between leaders and everyone around them. It reminds us and others that we are essentially all the same; all deserving respect, acknowledgment and the opportunity to learn and exercise greater leadership in our role and in our lives. Humbleness is also a key element of healthy Servant Leadership. I’d also add a second key H—Humor: self-deprecating and/or general in focus; never cynical or belittling humor at the expense of others. Humor breaks down barriers, lightens the heart and mind and supports greater unity and esprit de corps.
What are the skills one needs to survive in the new economy?
Commitment to continuous learning and practice, linked to meaningful performance metrics and evidence of effectiveness. Ruthless focus on upgrading our mindset and B/O/S—Brain Operating System. Identifying and focusing on the vital sequenced priorities for success. Fearlessly examining and discarding old/ less effective paradigms. Investing time to continuously upgrade learning HOW to learn better and faster; learning how to use our brain more affectively. Focusing on learning and applying Universal Principles of Success (UPS), such as Quality, Systems, Leverage, Order from Chaos, the Pareto Principle, the Golden Ratio, the First 15%, Predictive Intelligence (PQ), etc.
What is the key to building a culture of lifelong learning?
Start with self first. Learn and model lifelong learning in all you do. Practice the golden rule of lifelong learning: TEACH others what you’ve learned—and encourage them to do the same and pass it on. As importantly, drive out fear and break down silos and barriers that keep people from optimally learning, collaborating and sharing knowledge. A culture of fear kills creativity, innovation, learning and collaboration. These last two points are a foundational principle in the System of Profound Knowledge from the Einstein of quality and success, Dr. W. Edwards Deming.
What do you most love about your work? How has your work enriched you, as a human being?
The ability to serve and support people, teams and organizations to powerfully and enjoyably journey towards their potential and aspirations. Strengthening the inside-out dynamic of personal transformation being the foundation for professional, life and world transformation. The joy that comes from researching and sharing profound principles and practices of health, performance, happiness and transformation which makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Learn and teach others
what you have learnt.
What has life taught you about yourself that you cherish and go back to, for strength and inspiration?
That: The answers to all questions are within. The questions themselves contain the answers, like golden seeds waiting to sprout and grow. Wisdom, love, divinity and goodness are at the core of everything. That I have powerful roots of resilience to honour, grow and restore all I am meant to be.
How do you stay inspired?
Writing, researching, preparing and sharing meaningful wisdom that makes a difference and sets the stage for transformation. Investing in myself and those close to me. Allowing ample time for rest, recovery and relaxation. Being in love: with my work and mission, my partner, my family, friends and allies; with Nature; with my life and all life.
Are you the person you needed when you were young?
Yes, in much the same way as I was the young person I need now.
The answers to all questions are within.
This interview is also available in Romanian:
Mathew K. Cross – Leadershipul este știință și artă
Mathew K. Cross – Ce înseamnă succesul pentru liderul modern?