A Kaleidoscope Approach to Leading


These tactics will enhance any leader's vision, adaptability, and empathy.

As we enter the season of resolutions and fresh starts, leaders can seize the opportunity to reset, refocus, and reinvigorate their approach to steering their organizations toward success. This period of renewal is a prime moment for reflection and forward thinking.

Our own experiences in our respective fields have illuminated the critical importance of embracing diverse perspectives, particularly in navigating the exponential changes reshaping the workplace and our connection to a deeper sense of purpose. Jayshree Seth has been engaged in technology and product development for driving the commercialization of innovative products within a large corporation for over three decades and has extensively explored and written about these evolving leadership paradigms. Meanwhile, Tony Martignetti, a seasoned leadership expert with over 25 years of experience, offers a wealth of expertise in guiding leaders through transformation and growth in rapidly changing environments. Together, our collective experiences converge to provide a unique insight into contemporary leadership challenges and a path forward.

This era of unprecedented change necessitates an evolution in leadership to effectively address these challenges and their profound implications for the future. Relying solely on a narrow set of approaches can limit the breadth and depth of your influence and hinder the full potential of your organization. Therefore, embracing a more holistic view is not just beneficial but critical for navigating these shifting tides and unlocking true organizational potential and transformative innovation.

In today’s world, underscored by the 2023 Ipsos 3M State of Science Index, the call for science-driven, scalable, and sustainable innovations is louder than ever. With 90% of people surveyed emphasizing the need for companies to accelerate innovation, particularly in addressing climate change challenges, the landscape is clear: a new leadership approach is essential to foster innovation effectively.


Metaphorical thinking serves as a powerful tool for visualizing and comprehending complex leadership concepts. The following thinking models are metaphors that will guide leaders through the complexities where strategy meets reality in an ever-evolving world. Each lens offers a distinct viewpoint, enabling leaders to gain perspective, dissect problems, anticipate trends, practice empathy, and adapt resiliently. Together, these perspectives form a comprehensive approach, equipping leaders to be active, engaged, and knowledgeable in proactively shaping the future and navigating their leadership journey.

Telescope Perspective: Look far ahead

In the dynamic landscape of contemporary leadership, the telescope perspective is crucial for navigating uncertainty. Leaders must cast their vision far into the future by anticipating industry trends, technological advancements, and societal changes. This foresight allows them to position their organizations strategically, fostering innovation and adaptability. In an era of rapid disruption, leaders employing the telescope view guide their teams toward sustainable success by aligning present actions with a compelling long-term vision and laying the groundwork for transformative innovation to flourish.

Practical Applications and Suggestions: Regularly revisit and refine your long-term vision. Facilitate strategy sessions, articulate the grand picture, and communicate strategies against the backdrop of this vision to keep the team aligned. What distant horizons does your leadership vision encompass? Take time periodically to envision and imagine your organization’s future, individually and collectively.

In Tony’s work as a leadership coach, he worked with a pharmaceutical CEO who realized that her company’s long-term vision had become blurred. We worked on refining her vision, focusing on sustainability and innovation. She then communicated this vision in a company-wide retreat, aligning her team toward this new direction. It’s crucial to step back and ensure your vision remains relevant periodically.

Microscope Perspective: Look deep down

Amidst the fast-paced challenges of today’s business environment, the microscope perspective remains indispensable. Leaders should be knowledgeable about the detailed day-to-day operations to ensure efficient, quality, and agile decision-making. In the meticulous examination of operations lies the very heartbeat of bringing innovation to life. Understanding the intricacies of processes, workflows, and interactions enables leaders to actively identify areas for improvement and respond swiftly to emerging issues in the process of taking ideas to commercialization. In the contemporary context, the microscope view empowers leaders to optimize performance and deliver results in the face of evolving demands.

Practical Applications and Suggestions: Optimize performance by regularly reviewing key parameters of day-to-day operations and how they are evolving. Assign teams to delve deeply into each phase, so they can be optimized for efficient execution of the idea-to-innovation journey. Be knowledgeable and engaged with the details that are critical to organizational success.

A manufacturing department head we worked with struggled with operational inefficiencies. Through detailed analysis, he and his team identified bottlenecks in their processes. They significantly increased efficiency by delegating the task of optimizing each stage to specific team leaders. Remember, the devil is often in the details, and a deep dive can reveal critical insights.

Periscope Perspective: Look out!

The periscope perspective gains significance in an era of constant change and external disruptions. Leaders need to scan the business environment beyond immediate concerns, spotting emerging trends, patterns, and potential challenges and implications. This adaptability allows organizations to proactively adjust strategies, refine products, and seize new opportunities. Leaders with a periscope view exemplify engagement, exhibit fortitude, and ensure their teams remain agile, navigating turbulent waters with a keen eye on the horizon and with an awareness of blind spots.

Practical Applications and Suggestions: Proactively facilitate initiatives that scan the business environment for emerging trends and threats, especially the ones not in direct line of sight. Actively adjust your course to create possibilities and seize opportunities for innovation. The periscope view is critical, given its potential impact on the telescope and microscope view.

For example, a diagnostics business client was able to pivot their business strategy to applications outside of the health sector to capitalize on an emerging market trend they identified through vigilant market research. Keeping an eye out for what is not immediately visible can uncover potential opportunities and threats.

Stethoscope Perspective: Look within

The stethoscope perspective is instrumental for effective leadership in today’s interconnected and diverse workplaces. Leaders must listen not only to what their team is saying but also comprehend the underlying emotions and sentiments. Understanding individuals’ unique needs and concerns fosters an environment of empathy and inclusivity. Leaders who embrace the stethoscope view show that they have a heart and that they can create a supportive environment where team members feel heard and valued. This leads to increased engagement and collaboration, which is critical to fostering a culture of innovation.

Practical Applications and Suggestions: Actively listen and authentically empathize. Foster a positive work environment by understanding the emotional pulse of your team, the organization, and the rhythm of the people. You must engage both minds and hearts to truly inspire your team and create fertile ground for innovation.

A clinical team leader improved morale by implementing regular listening sessions. These sessions helped her understand her team’s challenges and aspirations, leading to a more engaged and motivated workforce. True leadership involves listening with empathy and acting on the insights gained.

Horoscope Perspective: Look above

The horoscope perspective becomes important as leaders recognize the unpredictable nature of the global landscape. Leaders need to cultivate humility and resilience by acknowledging that not everything is in their control. In an era where unforeseen events can impact businesses overnight, leaders with a horoscope view stay grounded, adapting gracefully to challenges beyond their control. By acknowledging these factors, leaders position their organizations to adapt as well and innovate in the face of unforeseen circumstances. This perspective encourages a mindset of gratitude and a focus on building resilient, collaborative teams capable of weathering any situation.

Practical Applications and Suggestions: The “Horoscope” perspective in leadership underscores the significance of humility and recognizing the role of external factors in personal and organizational success. It’s about understanding that sometimes, success stems from unforeseen circumstances. It is about recognizing that innovation is not solely a result of planning but can also come from unpredictable circumstances.

For instance, a business leader unexpectedly saw a surge in online sales due to sudden changes in consumer behavior during a global event. Instead of attributing this solely to business strategy, the leader acknowledged the role of external trends. This mindset fosters resilience and gratitude within the team, preparing them to navigate future uncertainties with a balanced perspective.


Reflecting on pre-pandemic leadership trends, it’s evident that many leaders heavily relied on either the “telescope” (future-focused) or “microscope” (detail-oriented) perspectives. However, the turbulence of recent years has underscored the critical need for a “periscope” view—the ability to anticipate and adapt to rapid changes and external disruptions. Similarly, a shortfall in applying the “stethoscope” (empathetic listening) and “horoscope” (acknowledging external factors and the role of luck) perspectives led to setbacks for numerous leaders and organizations.

Today, there’s a growing recognition of the value in adopting what can be described as a “kaleidoscope” approach to leadership. This approach integrates multiple perspectives—combining vision with precision, adaptability, empathy, and an understanding of external influences. It paves the way for more meaningful work, relevant and impactful innovations, and a leadership style that is responsive to the combination of complexities of our times.

As the new year unfolds, leaders find themselves at the nexus of reflection and anticipation—it is a pivotal moment to reinvigorate visionary leadership and innovative thinking. This toolkit of perspectives offers a compass for leaders and those who aspire to lead resiliently and authentically. As you navigate your leadership odyssey, remember: The lenses are yours to see, with numerous possibilities, shaping a journey that transcends the ordinary and charts a course toward extraordinary leadership with vision, precision, adaptability, empathy, and humility.

This article was originally published in Fast Company. You can check it out here.


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