Building innovative institutions for a new generation of African leaders
A conversation between Veda Sunasee, Executive Director of African Leadership University, and Adama Sanneh, Moleskine Foundation CEO.
Follow the “Creativity Pioneers” podcast on the distribution platforms of your choice and share your thoughts and comments with us on Facebook and Instagram @MoleskineFoundation.
Adama Sanneh: Welcome, everybody. Welcome Veda. I’m very glad to have you here. I love that in your background and in your path to leadership there’s a lot of creativity, there’s a lot of culture, there’s a lot of art. Even if I discover somewhere that at some point you wanted to be an aeronautic engineer or space engineer or something like that, you have to tell us something about what happened there. But as with every podcast, we always start this conversation by asking our guest to choose three words that they think they can represent themselves and their mission in life. And I think you chose three very interesting words: kitchen, stage and cathedral.
So, well, first of all, thank you very much for being here. Welcome!
Veda Sunassee: Thanks for having me.
AS: So, can you tell me a little bit about these three words? Where did they come from?
VS: Well, it’s funny. Funny you mention that there’s always been an inherent interest in the arts in my journey. And you’re certainly right. When I often sort of describe myself, I say that in as most of my professional career as an educator, I’d like to think that fundamentally I’m an artist. And hopefully when I unpack these three words, the artist within will also emerge. So why the three words? You know, where it comes from? I remember my students asked me once where did I learn leadership and I often say to them that there are two places where I learn leadership.
One is the kitchen where I worked for four years at university. The other one is the stage where I did theater for four years when I was at university. But the funny story is that I had no idea at the time that I was learning leadership in those, in these platforms. And it’s only later, a sort of looking back and having the frameworks to think about leadership, that made me understand why these were two very critical crucibles for my leadership journey.And the last one is Cathedral. And I’ll tell you a story that has influenced the way I think about my work, especially in the African Leadership group, but also sort of in general what I think I’m very good at and I’m interested in doing as I look at the common thread in my professional journey, so why kitchen and how did I learn leadership there?
When I joined university, I got a scholarship, but part of my scholarship was also that I needed to work in the dining hall to make some money. And I remember the dining hall at Princeton is like, if you watch Harry Potter, the kind of dining hall that you’re sitting out with, big candles and everything, the long tables, it’s a similar kind of dining hall. And I remember when I started working there, you go into the kitchen where all the magic happens, right? So, when you come into the dining hall, you come in, you take your tray, you take your plate, you take your utensil, you walk around, you pick your food, you eat, you finish eating, you come to this conveyor belt where you put your tray and your leftovers and then it disappears. And then nobody knows what happens. You just know that the next day when you come, you get a new tray and it’s clean and all of that. And I work behind the scene where all the magic happens. And when the tray comes on the conveyor belt, it appears in the kitchen, my job was to lift it off the conveyor belt. You put the cup in the cup tray, you put the silverware in in the bowl where it’s soaking. You’re stacking the plates; you’re stacking the trays. And then when you’ve piled up a bit, you turn around, you put it on another conveyor belt, you push it. There’s a guy or girl waiting on the other side and that person picks it up and starts loading it into this massive washing machine and then somebody else catching it on the other side.
If you’re still wondering, OK, I don’t see what leadership is in all of this. What was interesting is that I’ve always known about efficiency and systems and processes and operation, and this is a very miniature version of an operation. But being in an environment where we had a captain and our captain would challenge us to how fast you could pick up the trays and how fast you could dish out, because here’s the thing: the moment — let’s say — a tray keeps going on the conveyor belt, there is a little detector. And if it goes past the detector, the conveyor belt stops. And if that conveyor belt stops on the other side where people are loading the trays, when they finish dinner, you create a massive backlog. So, if you are delaying in the kitchen, that line stops, and you have a whole traffic in the dining hall and people are not able to do this efficiently. So, it depended on us to be fast. And there were incentives that we were given by our captain to do this and do this really, really fast. And the challenge was always to never let it stop. And funny enough I got pretty good at it and eventually became a good performer, got promoted and I ended up spending four years in that kitchen. I grew from being the guy catching the dishes to being the Head of Student Dining Services for the whole campus by the time I was graduating. But it was one of the most powerful lesson in terms of understanding that excellence lies in the details, no matter what you do, even in the kitchen. If you want to be excellent, you want to pay attention to the details. How do you station your crate, so your mug goes in it really, really fast? How do you dish out the tray, so you are able to put it back in an efficient and fast enough way that you can pick up the next one and the line doesn’t stop? It may sound silly, but I can guarantee you this is the one place where I truly understood excellence lies in the details and that if you have an efficient operation, you can create magic because from the other side it seemed like magic. You send your tray, it disappears. The next day it shows up again. Kitchen.
Stage, my background is in leadership. I run a Leadership University, but I started in the African Leadership Group as a teacher. I was a leadership teacher, but I got interested in leadership because my roommate was teaching leadership and he would bring all these books at home. And every time I pick up a book, I was like, Oh, man, I need that stuff. I need that. I need to learn this. I need to learn emotional intelligence. I need to learn productivity, etc. And that sort of drew me into it and I ended up teaching it. And with that sort of I got the language to really start formulating what leadership meant. And I believe very strongly that leadership starts within yourself first: before you’re going to lead anybody in this world, you need to be able to lead yourself. You need to be able to have enough self-awareness. It starts with emotional intelligence. I believe that, at the core of any leader, you need to have a very strong sense of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. I think I don’t need to name names, but we’ve seen in recent past leaders in the world, right, who you could clearly see were very low on self-awareness, on empathy, on emotional intelligence. But here’s an interesting story. When I did theater, I mean, I absolutely loved it. And I’ve performed in over 20 different plays and I’ve played different roles, different characters. But only later on I realized that a lot of the leadership teaching that we do is experientially in nature. So, we try to create these simulations for people to better understand a certain stakeholder, a user, right. User empathy and all that. But there is no exercise more powerful in empathy than being an actor. Because what is it to be an actor to try to become somebody else, in an emotion. In leadership, we often talk about, like walking in the moccasins of somebody else. This idea of like putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes to understand the world from their lens and the reality. And I’ve done that for four years. Right. And I would go at length to, like, understand a character and prepare to be the character and all of that, but never really fully appreciating how powerful an exercise in empathy it was. And it really, really was because you show up, you’ve had a long day of school, you come at five p.m., you perform at seven p.m., you have to get in the zone, you have to become this character that you are not, on a day to day. And that exercise of forcing yourself to become something else was one of the most powerful empathy exercises. So, theater stage.
About Cathedral, there’s a beautiful letter written by a guy called Bill Shore, and it’s called Letter from the Cathedral of Milan. And Bill Shore was running a company and he was on vacation in Italy, in Milan. And he went to the cathedral and he was in full admiration of that cathedral and wrote this letter to his team in which he explains this idea of you look at this cathedral, which apparently took over 500 years to complete, and he said: just imagine — what does it take for a group of people or an individual to want to build something, knowing full well that he or she will not live long enough to see the labor of that work come to fruition. Forget him or the person who started it or the group of people who started. They knew the people who were building the Cathedral of Milan knew not only they would not live long enough there, that their children would not live long enough, that will take generations before this thing comes to life. And I believe that building institutions that are transformative and change the world is like building cathedrals. It requires a very distinct type of thinking of guts, a very unique mindset to believe in something that is so big, and you believe in it and you have faith in it so strongly that you are willing to commit to putting the foundation together, knowing that you may not live long enough to see it. And I think in modern day world where everything is so urgent, where we are constantly wanting to get the accolade or to succeed or we have very defined sort of templates of success, it is very easy to want to do the next thing that is going to put you out there on a pedestal and the world will claim that you’ve been successful. But people who really build enduring institutions that are transformational, that change the world, have a long-term horizon, a different kind of way of thinking. And I think Bill Shore describes it magnificently in that letter as he describes what did it take to build a cathedral, the Cathedral of Milan, and what are the lessons that you can take on from that.
Why was that relevant and resonated with me is I’d like to think that’s what we’re trying to do with the African Leadership group that we are in the business, for lack of a better word, to develop the next generation of African leaders. And if you’re going to build a generation of leaders, you’ve got to think your timeline is generations, right? It’s not a year. It’s not two years. So, you have to play the long game and you have to think about building institutions that will give you an education to do to prepare you for the future, which is also not something that could go down a rabbit hole, here around how obsolete our current education models are. And you really need to think in new novel ways. But that resonated with me personally, because when I look at my journey into group, I’d like to think that I’ve constantly been part of helping the group build something and then other people can come and continue drawing on it.
Whether it was helping starting the Academy in Johannesburg, whether it was being part of the founding team of ALU in Mauritius, whether it was me going to Rwanda as employee number one to start ALU Rwanda, and today it’s this magnificent beautiful campus. It’s got a thousand plus students. And, from me being the first employee to a team of two hundred plus people, to me coming back right now to have the institution scale from two thousand students to twenty thousand students in the next five years. I’d like to think that’s what I get my inspiration from, playing my part in being an engineer, an architect, and in building cathedrals.
AS: It was beautiful. Thank you, Veda, because I think you touched upon so many different topics and you managed to trace for us an incredible journey that really starts from the self and goes to a vision that goes way beyond the self. And they found extremely interesting this idea of the three words. And I would probably the first one that started that I thought was the aspect of stage in the sense that there is this element of introspection or self-awareness, that is a starting point of everything to a certain extent. This idea that you brought of the kitchen is the idea that creativity, imagination, vision, requires processes, requires practice. It’s not something that just remains out there. And finally, the idea of the cathedral and I really appreciate it, since I’m from Milan and I am actually not too far from the Duomo itself. And every time you pass in front of that structure, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, it’s just unbelievable, just something that really outlast yourself and anything else. And I think he speaks about vision and courage, as you said. And it’s extremely interesting.
The things that I would like to pick up, though, is what you said in the beginning that I found interesting because it’s true that you are an engineer, an architect, an educator and everything, but you’d like to define yourself as an artist, first of all. So, can you expand a little bit more on that: why an artist?
VS: Yeah, I mean, look, theater aside, this sort of craft which is a form of art and my love for it and my appreciation for that art form aside.
One of my students said this to me, “Mr. V. seeing you in a classroom is like your classroom is your stage and you’re performing, right, but your performance is educational”. And when I think about that — at first, I was like, whoa, hold on. I’d like not to think of myself as sort of the person who’s giving a monologue like this. This is not what learning is supposed to be, it’s supposed to be dialogical, supposed to be an exchange. So, what does that mean? That I am bastardizing learning here, or education? Yeah. But I come to understand with time that learning can be fun. And, actually, learning is even more powerful when it is fun, when it is playful. I mean, you think about children. How do children learn. Why is it that a kindergarten is all about play? And then the moment you start standing one upwards, it’s like we’ve forgotten how to play. It’s like it doesn’t matter anymore. But I think it’s inherently human to be playful, to be artistic, that I mean, think about our senses and what stimulates our senses. Right. And I’ve always been an advocate for and also a designer of learning experiences and especially experiential learning and this idea of like using imagination and creativity to create scenarios and simulations for people to learn. I’ll give you some examples of some of the probably crazier things that we’ve done. Again, you can never really ever recreate somebody else’s experience. You never can try to do all sorts of empathy exercise, but there’s only so far that your empathy can go right. But you want somebody to move beyond, just like cognitive empathy, to a place of real compassionate empathy where you move to do something and to move to action. And we wanted to get our students to understand that.
So, we designed this little experiment, a simulation experience where we got our students, we brought our students hurried into the auditorium and told them that you have 15 minutes, you need to go to your room and grab all your essentials because there’s an emergency. Essentially, what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to create a simulation for a refugee crisis. So, you had very little time to go and pick up your stuff. And it did. And it came out. We made them walk around our campus for two hours. Aimlessly, not entirely sure where they’re going to go until they finish on the school soccer field. And then we gave them some material to, like, build a dwelling to spend the night. Some of them we get some tents and stuff and they spent overnight outside. And the next morning we try again, we use some experts to sort of try to replicate that experience as best as we can. Again, you could have sit in the classroom and say: hey, here’s a video, here’s a text, read about the refugee crisis and try to understand what it means to be a refugee. Or you could say, hey, well, let’s try to experience a little bit of that and then you close off. We’re bringing in some experts. By experts, I really mean people who’ve had the actual experience and some of our students were actual refugees, who could speak to that — like that was telling a colleague yesterday — theory of change, which is like a very important concept used in consulting and all the different places, we teach at both the university and the high school. And at the end of the year, we will do a survey and we’ll ask our students what were the topics that were most valuable to them in terms of like how does it help them in terms of skills. And then we also ask them to rate of all the topics that we learn. Which one did they find most enjoyable? And the topic of theory of change turned out to be the one that they found the most valuable as a concept, as a tool, but the least enjoyable because it’s so dense as a concept like what do we do. I actually then designed a board game, actually build a board game that we still use at the Academy. Now I think they’ve even commercialized it to teach the same concept. We gameified it. So, how do you think of theory of change, this idea of like leveraging resources, having a set of activities to lead towards and a set of outcomes with an intended impact in the world? I think when I look at my journey whenever I build something with — building a program, building an institution in the way of my approach, leading, building teams, etc. I’ve always allowed imagination, my creativity to influence and inform the process, right. Because I think there’s this beauty in the experience. And if you are intentional about it, you are creative about it. You can not only extract more value, but you can also add more value to people going through that experience, hence why I say inherently an artist above all else.
AS: There is something there that I would like to explore with you because I think that we can delve a little bit more into the vision of the Africa Leadership University. We touched upon a little bit in your introduction, it’s very compelling. I think there are some words that I think everybody would agree that are important. But a few people put them together like ethical leadership, for example. And also, I think what is transpires from your mission, there’s also this element of becoming an author of your life or really take responsibility for something that is bigger than you ultimately, but it starts within you.
We could explore and delve into this concept at a high level, but what I think is interesting is the Africa Leadership group that you developed is this aspect of practicality, is this aspect of creating a real institution with real number is about being entrepreneurial, because probably one of the things that we need the most right now in the world — not only on the African continent, let’s be clear, but in the world — is creative institutions that are able to produce new language, new way of doing, new way of thinking, and then operating so that therefore they can create a new type of society or new aspects. I would like to kind of explore with you this element of how does that pass from somehow an intellectual idea, that we can somehow all agree on, into something real? How was that journey for you? And how do you approach that in your everyday, this idea of really established and creating, developing a creative institution?
VS: Yeah, I think this is a really good way of framing it, right, because I think, first of all, it’s necessary, we don’t have a choice. We live in a world today that is so different and keeps changing so rapidly, that the only thing that we can tap into is our creativity. Otherwise, you’re going to get lost and you’re going to get overwhelmed with just how complex this new world is. And that’s one thing that we’ve been endowed with, as a specie, is our creativity. And I think the way that we’ve thought about it is that it connects a little bit to what I was talking about earlier, this idea of the theory of change needs to be to be relatively clear, like why do you want to do? Why do you want to build an institution? Why do you want to build a school, why do you want to build a university? What is the purpose? Your purpose could be: I want to build a school because I want to build a school. That’s the goal. That’s the mission. But, as they’re saying, the world is so unique right now that you can’t just build a school because you just build a school that doesn’t have a stronger or bigger purpose. You’re going to get people to go through the motions in that school and they will probably not emerge as, forget the most productive and creative contributors in society, but probably, even ill-equipped to survive in a very complex society because we live in a complex society. So, how do you go about taking building an educational institution as an intellectual concept to infusing creativity into it, is you’ve got to find people who are aligned in the purpose, right, because I think: do you think that’s the most important part?At the end of the day, I think what moves us as again, as a human species is to be able to live for a higher purpose again, whether it’s building a cathedral, to serve a higher power, or to build an institution that will prepare a group of people for the economic prosperity of its people and future generations of its people, or it’s for liberation from systems of oppression and modern types of colonialism.
You need to be clear about the purpose and that purpose when you work backwards, given your theory of change, you say, OK, then if that’s the purpose, what do I need to do now to get to that purpose? And you take appreciation of the environment in which you’re trying to get this liberation or create the economic prosperity or other kinds of prosperity. And then, once you align on that, then you say: OK, then, what are the skills, and the behaviors, and the mindsets that you want these people to have, the people who are going to go through this school of yours to have one, they emerge and why? And then you craft those and then you work even further backwards, and you say, well, if traditional systems of education are unable to deliver that, then how do you think creatively? How do you leverage technology? How do you dignify learning? How do you make learning personalized? How do you give ownership and agency to the learner to define them?
Because in the traditional learning I am the center and the authority of knowledge. I am the teacher. I am the professor. I am the oracle. I will come and I will profess, and you are the recipient, whereas I think that’s flawed. If you think about it because we are endowed with lots of curiosity. Right. And for me, this is the artistic part, what is art is being curious about something and then bringing it, allowing it to explore it, first of all, in a creative way and then creating value from it, give it a life form of its own. So, why can learning not be that? Why can a student not decide I care about this, I am curious about this and I want to pursue this thing in a particular direction, or I want to answer this question and I want to do it in X number of ways. I want to go and spend some time with the guys at Moleskine Foundation and that’s how I want to enhance my learning. What’s wrong with that? Who says who coming to spend time with you guys is not learning because you’re not sitting in a classroom and there’s not a whiteboard or a chalkboard in front of them? So, I think we have to really be creative in the way we also appreciate where learning happens and where all the centers of knowledge are not just where we’ve assumed historically and traditionally where it is.
AS: What I hear, if I’m interpreting right, I hear in some cases what now is becoming a little bit hyped because of Elon Musk, but this idea of first principles thinking it’s like really go and question some of the assumptions that consciously or unconsciously underpinning our frame of thinking and ultimately then allow us to create certain things compared to others. And it seems to me that the African Leadership University, African Leadership Group, are really pushing on that and start questioning some of those assumptions, and then by those questioning, you can create something that is unique.
The reason that I would like to explore a little bit though about because ALU and the Group are an excellence under — let’s say — any objective indicators, in terms of fundraising, revenue numbers, etc. everywhere in the world, the African Leadership Group and African Leadership University would be an excellence. Though, I feel that there is something special about being the African Leadership Group and Africa Leadership University, that context that, to a certain extent, is both physical and metaphorical in a way. In which way the African part of the Leadership University is influencing the building of an institution and has inspired the way that you decided to go and to build things?
VS: At its very core, it is the love and desire to right some historical wrongs for the African continent that led to the founding of the group. The founder Fred Swaniker who doesn’t really need any introduction, but I think those of us who have paid attention to his story it begins with, first of all, him having to leave Ghana because of a coup d’état. And then sort of finding himself and his family in Botswana and sort of growing up all over the continent, but then also having had a chance to go and study in the West, etc. and sort of this realization as a Pan African is that we all know the kinds of labels and stereotypes and thinking that is very often associated with the continent, as if almost we are unable on the continent to be centers of excellence or centers of creativity or centers of genius, which is flawed.
I mean, you just mentioned Elon Musk, he is African. People will forget that right then. And we have great Africans who have gone on to do remarkable things in the world. And look, let’s be honest, Africans have also been the backbone of building some of the grandest institutions in the world. Granted, it was done under a pretty messed up system of oppression but make no mistake that the contribution of our people to the world is massive. It’s just that some chose to write history in a certain way and discounted and demeaned and stripped away the dignity of people on the continent, and sadly, the world has evolved the way it has and despite efforts to try to fix some of these things, as we see still today. We’re not on par yet. And the continent has definitely suffered tremendously over the years. At the same time since independence, in the 50s, 60s, 70s, we’ve seen also generations of African leaders who’ve honestly failed their people. Big time. And the youth of Africa — Africa is the youngest continent in the world — right, by the turn of the century, 40 percent of the entire world population is going to be African. Africa has a median age of 19 years old, which means that if it’s got a population of 1.2 billion people right now, 600 million people are under the age of 19. This is a generation that is creative, it’s energetic, it’s optimistic. That’s the part that makes me reminds me all the time that we have a moral imperative to do what we can do for this generation because it is no fault of theirs that the world is how it is and some of their countries are in the states that they are.
I don’t want to be too alarmist either. There’s been a lot of improvement on the continent over the last few years, but when you look at the data of what lies ahead for us, we are looking either at one of the greatest opportunities in human history, or really tapping into the potential of youth and young people. Or we could be looking at a disaster if we fail to build a system to educate and create employment and opportunities and all of that. So, this is with pride that we are the African Leadership University, the African Leadership Group, we certainly hope that what we are building — and we have reason to believe that we are on the right track — how we are pushing the boundaries and revolutionizing education, all those will pick up from, as well, that this is going to be born out of Africa and will build a model that the rest of the world can copy. I mean, we already attract people from all over the world who come to spend time with us. I remember I was hosting a conversation with this gentleman, he’s known as the most famous teacher in Finland, and Finland has one of the most progressive education systems. And he was saying to me that he had spent a week with us. He said: dude, I feel embarrassed to be talking here because what you guys are doing is remarkable, far more remarkable that whatever we’ve built in Finland. And I was like: wow, OK, so we are on to something here. And again, we’re still very early on. What was that? Five hundred years to build a Cathedral of Milan. We’ve been 14, 15 years as a group in the game, 6 years going on to 7 at the university. A long way to go, but I think we’ve assembled a group of people and we have the commitment the heart and the passion of young Africans to join our mission. And that sets us up for a remarkable journey.
I hope we can have this conversation 50 years from now, a whole different, different type of reflection.
AS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And this really talks about that idea of a cathedral that you were saying at the beginning. Look, we have this, as you know, the name of this podcast is Creativity Pioneer and for us, the creativity pioneer is someone who has the intellectual curiosity and the courage for unconventional acts of changing the reality around ourselves. And I think, today, you really showcased with us how your remarkable journey in really interpreting this role of creativity pioneer, as well as the very last question, I would like to ask you something practical in your everyday life.
How do you stay creative? How do you keep yourself inspired so that you can? Because, we know, creativity pioneer is not somebody who did something in the past, and that’s it. Creativity pioneering is an attitude that has to be nourished, that has to be nurtured. So how do you nurture that side of yourself?
VS: You know, with your permission, I want to share a personal internal struggle, first before I answer your question. And that struggle is always been, as I said, as a former actor and I have also directed some plays and musicals and what not, I’ve constantly been dealing with this internal struggle of the artist within, and the artist without: there’s this desire to become an artist, a full-fledged artist, which is something I probably will explore at some point in my life. I still believe that, but I also know the path that I took and that’s been a commitment to education and transformative education in the last decade plus now and, at some point, because the question is constantly at the back of my mind, I have to make peace with it. I’d like to think that whatever I do, I pursue, I’m able to align my passion, my interests to the cause that I care about in the world and my skills that I have as well. And then I realize at some point that I can actually live a very purposeful and very happy and fulfilling, gratifying life, while not having art or being an artist, that’s my career for as long as art is an inherent and integral part of my life to keep it alive.
When it comes to your question, how do I keep it alive? How do I keep the art alive in my life? I think in a number of ways. Number one is as a consumer of art; I make sure that I consume art as frequently as I can. Right now, we live in tough times. But for me, when the theaters are open, whenever I got a chance to go see a play, go see live, whatever it’s a movie or to a concert, I’m an avid, avid consumer of art in all its form. The only one I’m not pretty good at all is dancing and singing as well, but I’m a big, big fan of music and performing arts, etc. So, keep my eye, nourish myself with art. That’s something very important for me to do. Consume the art.
And the second one is how do I infuse art and creativity in my work. As I told you, it almost came organically, naturally. Any person who’s worked with me will tell you that I am fundamentally a creative, whether it’s the way we’re going to brainstorm or the way we’re going to problem solve. It’s never dull. It’s always some creative ways of how we are going to problem solve this in an artistic way. And it’s fascinating what it does when you tap into your right brain.
Even when I was working as a consultant, a lot of the programs that I’ve designed, I would do like consulting at the executive level, and still I bring creativity. I get people to do some stuff that got them like I could not have imagined that this would lead to such a powerful insight around everything, around culture, around self-leadership. Using this thing that we do around culture where you are reflecting around using the five elements of nature, when I was like, this is a little like touchy feely, and then, before it is like, we’ve extracted such valuable information around how our culture is living or not living at the moment, but just by looking at it from a different lens so making sure that creativity and imagination is an integral part of my day-to-day work. It’s almost become, honestly, like a habit. It’s like this idea. Like at what point does the skill become a mindset? And it’s like you practice it so much that it becomes almost a mindset, a way of living, a way of doing. And I think that creativity and imagination for me have most definitely become a way of living. And when I’m not, I know it. Trust me. It’s like I’m thirsty. And then I’m going to do something that is more of a more creative nature.
Recently I’ve been honest, I’ve been feeling it, especially with the lockdown in the pandemic, my ability to be in these spaces, because I believe very strongly also that — yes — you can be a pioneer, you can be a creative solo, there are wonderful solo artists in the world in many forms, but I’m personally a strong believer in subscribing to communities of practice and communities of creatives. And that’s where I feel like I’ve come to life when I’m in these spaces, in these communities and the reason it’s been really hard with the lockdown in the pandemic to be in those spaces where you’re able to nourish your soul. Because creative art is also spiritual. For me, at least it is. And how do you nourish your spirit with that? It’s about being in spaces where you are able to live the art in the community and, yes, about it, because it also ties to what we talking about earlier. It’s about awareness. You need to be aware that this is important to you, that your soul and your heart require art as a nourishment. Then you have to nourish your soul with art as well.
AS: Veda, thank you so much. That was really great. You gave us so much to think about and I think above all, I think you showcased to us how to dismantle some of those typical ideas and dichotomies between having a high-level managerial life and an artistic life. The two things are not in contradiction with each other, but, on the contrary, they are nurturing each other and this idea of a creative leadership or even more an ethical, creative leadership for the future.
So, I thank you so much. It was really great. And I look forward to continue our conversation in a different space.
VS: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
This conversation was recorded as one of the Episodes of “Creativity Pioneers”, a podcast by the Moleskine Foundation.
As the Moleskine Foundation’s vision is to inspire a new generation of creative thinkers and doers, this podcast aims to equip all of us with new perspectives and unconventional ideas to amplify our creativity, critical gaze, and imagination.
We engage in conversations with unique creative minds from all over the world, to explore and expand our understanding of creativity and its transformative power.
Each episode sparks from a selection of 3 keywords, chosen by our guest speakers. They serve as a compass, helping to orientate the conversation through art, entrepreneurship, literature, philosophy, politics, and social activism.
Follow the podcast on the distribution platforms of your choice and share your thoughts and comments with us on Facebook and Instagram @MoleskineFoundation.