Pippa Nissen Book Review – Creative Leadership – Born from Design by Rama Gheerawo

We were so intrigued by Rama Gheerawo’s latest book ‘Creative Leadership – Born from Design’  published by Lund Humphries in March 2022, that we asked Pippa Nissen, Director at Nissen Richards to take a closer look and write a review.

This is not the kind of book that I would normally pick up, but I’m glad that I did. It represents a refreshing way of thinking about a change in society I myself have been contemplating too, though in a different way. It was life-affirming to read Rama’s perspective and see how he talks about something I personally feel strongly about – creative leadership – or, from my perspective, creative management and thinking about the direction of our studio. It was great to see the overlap with values I also cherish: empathy, joy, nurturing and collaboration – and how it’s alright to think about ‘inspiring’ rather than indulging in a process of fear; very much the traditional way when I was out in the world gathering experience before starting my own practice. 

Rama suggests re-thinking the dynamics of leadership and creativity that underpin society and focuses on how this has partly changed as a response to the pandemic – something we have all observed. Taking inspiration from other countries and leadership styles, he explores how being human, idiosyncratic and alert to difference can become successful ways to change the world through a shift in creative leadership style. It also opened my eyes to some new goals I can set myself – to ‘actively listen’ and empathise. This is something that we talk about in our studio, and do instinctively, but it is genuinely helpful to hear this dissected within this book and framed in a slightly different way.

Over the years, I’ve often been in quite traditional architectural structured environments where I felt my ‘style’ of work or appreciation of leadership was at odds with the environment I was in. This made it all the more empowering to create my own company where the rules are a bit more fluid. I’m proud to say I’ve nurtured a wonderful team of managers, who are self-evidently human and care about the world in their own unique way. How refreshing to read a book that emphasises and celebrates this! Rama uses his own personal experience to draw on methodologies for collaborative attitudes and talks about the ‘ache for equity’ that underpins his work in creative leadership. The book seems to merge academic rigour and a quite hippy sensibility, a combination which works surprisingly well.

The publishing timeframe is even more pertinent with the invasion of Ukraine so present in the news right now. Rama talks about styles of leadership that are the antithesis of aggression and dictatorship – about how we can bring out the best in everyone and how we all have the potential to lead through a creative process.

Bring it on!

Book review by Pippa Nissen, Director, Nissen Richards Studio. Nissen Richards are a London-based design studio that evolved from a collaboration between architecture and theatre design. Today, they are a multidisciplinary practice that works across architecture, exhibitions, graphic design, theatre, story-telling, film and animation. At its core, their work is about creating spaces that stimulate experiences.


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
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