The 7 Pricinciples of Thinking Like Leonardo Di Vinci

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Coaching World

Michael Gelb is a man of many talents. He is a professional juggler, an author, a fourth degree black-belt in the Japanese martial art of Aikido; as well as a leading authority of genius thinking to personal and organizational development. A pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and innovative leadership; his work has been largely inspired by a relatively famous individual known for many of the same talents: Leonardo Di Vinci.

davinciConsidered history’s greatest genius, Leonardo Di Vinci’s innovative thinking and creativity continue to inspire us. From inventing the parachute before anyone could fly, to plans for submarines, flying machines, and the collapsible ladders we use today, his ability to think creatively would be an invaluable resource to a coach or anyone in a leadership position.

Through his research, Gelb has identified seven principles of How to Think like Leonardo Di Vinci. These practical, everyday exercises are something that all professional coaches can use to bring wisdom and personal growth to themselves and their practice.

1. Curiosità – An insatiable quest for knowledge and continuous improvement

“This is really the beginning of you working effectively as a coach and embodying the principles of effective coaching. It’s a deep curiosity of your own growth and evolution. It is about being curious regarding your own self-awareness, and your own mindfulness. It is recognizing your own challenges and being curious about how you can learn and grow and overcome obstacles.

Coaches really have to be a role model in this aspect. This is really about having the important ability of asking questions – It’s probably the most important coaching skill. Asking questions with the greatest point of leverage. What is the core issue for someone at that current time? Can you inspire their curiosita so they can rally to come up with some creative insight to help meet that core challenge. “What is the key point of leverage? What is the core issue? Then you should ask, ask how do we get there? How do we get to the essence of finding what it is we need to discover.”

2. Demonstrazione – Learning from experience

“This is all about cultivating your own independent, original thought. It’s literally the discipline of looking at things from different perspectives, different angles. Really questioning what your beliefs and assumptions are.

This is especially true the more leadership position you’re in. Leaders by nature tend to consciously embrace the overwhelming amount of approval thrown at them. You start believing your own publicity. We all want confirmation about just how smart and clever we are. Demonstrazione is really a matter of self-discipline. All great leaders tend to be disciplined in challenging, questioning and considering different perspectives.”

3. Connessione – Systems thinking

“Everything connects to everything else. Leonardo is considered a genius because he made connections that nobody else had made before. Make new connections; see things in a new way. This is what a coach really does. Coaches help somebody see something in a new way. Help them make a connection that they haven’t made before, which enlivens them, mobilizes them, and helps them solve their toughest challenges.

We all want to be around people who make us be our best. People who help us connect to our highest values, connect to our deeper purpose.”

4. Sensazione – Sharpening the senses

“It’s hard to overstate how important this is for coaches. For instance, when you’re in the presence of a really great coach, they truly see what’s going on. They hear your voice tone, they see your body language, they look at your facial expression and they are instantly aware of any discrepancy between your body language, voice tone, and what you’re actually saying. This is a huge part of the art of coaching!

As a coach, this is a skill you want to be developing for the rest of your life. You want to be sharpening your listening skill, your observational skill. You want to be able to read a person’s queues in the moment, and then again, asking the right questions based on the feedback you perceive.”

5. Sfumato – Managing ambiguity and change

“Sfumato is the embrace of the unknown. This is where we would separate the master coaches from the apprentices. While as a coach, it’s natural to want to have the right answer for what to do in any situation. However frequently, especially while dealing with major challenges and big transitions; there is no clear obvious answer. It is then your ability to be present, centered, open and patient: then being able to project this to your client that is maybe your most valuable skill. You don’t the answer, you don’t know what they should do, and they don’t know either. There may not even be enough information yet to make an intelligent decision. So how do you guide yourself and another person to stay centered when there is no clear answer or path?

This is a reality of many coaching interactions. The answer is not always apparent, but can you, as a coach maintain a constant, inspiring presence.”

6. Arte/Scienza – Whole-brain thinking

“So while you’re maintaining your center, while you’re being patient, you want to
be able to use your entire brain. You are not going to be able to solve complex challenges for yourself or your clients by just using half your brain. You cannot just be this right brain, intuitive, creative, artsy type. Just as you cannot be a person who just analyzes it, does all the numbers, and takes just the quantitative perspective. Today the world is so complex you have to be cultivating both of these modalities.

This is critically important for a coach, particularly someone who coaches in business, as they are held to very vigorous metrics. You have to be able to use both modalities. The integration of both logic and imagination is crucial to being successful.”

7. Corporalità – Body-mind fitness

“Balance of the body and mind. Your physical energy,your physical presence, your poise, your balance; this is all extremely important within any coaching context. A lot of helping people get through trying circumstance is simply being present. Sometimes it’s not about what you say; it can be about you being present with them in a way that helps them find quiet confidence, and use their whole brain in the midst of situations that otherwise might cause them to panic.

This is a lifetime quest for coaches to work on the integration of the body and mind.”

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