Explore Creative Leadership with The Orangeblowfish at TEDx

April 30, 2024
April 30, 2024 TOBF

At The Orangeblowfish, we believe that to celebrate our client brands, we must include ourselves in the mix. So, it’s a milestone of feeling pretty darned proud with our CEO and co-founder Natalie Lowe taking to the TEDx stage.


TEDx Theme – Unfolding Apex

The theme of this year’s TEDx NYU Shanghai Annual Conference was ‘Unfolding Apex’. Focusing on personal growth and leadership, and the possibilities that unfold, Natalie was tasked with delivering a bold, creative, and transformative thought-leadership piece. Luckily, these are a trio of touchpoints that guide The Orangeblowfish. Her talk, “Leadership sucks…now what?!”, went down a storm with attending students and future leaders, as well as visitors from across the globe. 


The Role of Creativity in Leadership

We got the lowdown on Natalie’s starring TEDx appearance.

TOBF: Giving a TEDx talk is the ultimate kudos for any leader. How did it come about? 

NL: I was asked! I was flattered and it was a wonderful opportunity as I coach executives on media communications. Previously, I was head of the TEDx Speakers Committee for TEDx Shanghai Women, so it was an honour to be invited to be on stage to share my story. 

While I could say I was completely surprised; I’ve always been vocal about how I value creativity in leadership. Creativity is important in brand storytelling and applies to what you bring to a leadership role, too. Technical skills alone aren’t enough. You need to activate your creativity and use your “rizz” or charisma to find your style. To do this, you need to channel your Emotional intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ). This adds depth, character, and direction to what you do, how you do it, and the evolving onward journey. EQ relies on respecting others and using your instinct, compassion, and sense of humanity, along with your intuition. Leaders need to realise that EQ or EI shows strength, not weakness. 


Natalie’s TEDx Message on Leadership Traits

TOBF: What’s the message within your talk that you want to get across?

NL: I want to convey that it’s not always easy being out in front, in whatever capacity, and you don’t have to be. Strong leadership is also about directing behind the scenes and valuing others. Surround yourself with smart people and let their individual talents lead, too. If you don’t have the right attributes and approach in place, then productivity, morale, and even your personal development can suffer. Part of this is knowing your self-worth without over-inflating it and opening your eyes to allow yourself to see the value of others, too. 

TOBF: What key leadership traits do you think matter most?

NL: Grit. I think leaders need to have grit. It’s a given that you need to know what you’re doing and do it well. Secondly, leadership requires you to have a “never give up” attitude, when the going gets tough, even when everyone feels like quitting. Once you’ve got these basic traits, then embrace creativity by activating your “rizz”, and applying EQ to what you do. 

There isn’t a standard 101 leadership manual. You need to develop your individual style rather than follow traditional rules that can get you stuck in a rut. Find your groove and own it. Finally, get on with it. There’s a difference between strategising and procrastinating.


The Orangeblowfish: A Story of Leadership

TOBF: So, do you follow a dot-to-dot puzzle in certain steps, and ultimately an image of what leadership is, emerges?

NL: I think the vital point is that the leadership path is not the same for everyone. By following the action points, the idea is that what you create resonates authentically. There are common behaviours we can follow to produce different results that all work. One of the best tips is to embrace curiosity. That means asking thought-provoking questions and always being the last person in the room to share your opinion. 

I set up The Orangeblowfish to take leadership of my own life. I wanted to bring my international business and marketing experience to brands in China. It was also a chance for my business partner, (who is also my husband), to showcase his visual art talents and for us both to shine. We didn’t follow a traditional path, because there wasn’t one. We were yearning for a platform that enabled us to demonstrate our deep-level understanding of local brand culture and identity in China. We were inspired by the concept of bringing brands to life in creative and innovative ways. There wasn’t that platform, so we created our own. 

TOBF: Why do you start your TEDx talk by saying that leadership sucks? 

NL:  To inspire others, I think it’s worth being grounded to start with. It’s all too easy to only focus on the successes, but they need to be within a framework that allows for a sense of perspective. 

I once imagined that being in a leadership position was going to be so much easier and more glamorous than being someone else’s minion. The fact is, that looking after my team and our clients is way more about grafting, even if that’s gratifying. If you don’t know how challenging it can be when the buck stops with you, then maybe you won’t be motivated to put the work in. The reason I’ve always worked hard is because I know that where I want to go isn’t going to be a walk in the park. I know there are times when it’s tough and that I have to keep going. That’s what makes it so satisfying though and it’s what clients love because it creates traction for their brands. 

TOBF: So, it’s a stick followed by a carrot, is that right? 

NL: Not quite. Not getting the carrot isn’t incentivising if it’s always out of reach. I like to think that it’s more about propelling forward from a clear reference point to reach real-world results, When I’m leading a project strategy or creative brand idea for clients, wowing them is the easy part. The challenge comes from ensuring that we, as their brand partner, and all internal stakeholders are on the same page and headed in the same direction. What makes the difference, and what my TEDx Talk is also about, is how creativity, “rizz”, and EQ open up potential. What transpires are routes that you might never have thought to navigate. 

Twelve years ago, I never imagined that I would be running a thriving business, especially one that’s flourishing post-pandemic. And I didn’t envisage delivering a TEDx Talk. It’s been such an honour to share my thoughts and hopefully inspire and empower professionals and future leaders to discover their potential. Beyond that, I hope that they find the courage to power through when the going gets tough, which it inevitably does at times.  

TOBF: Following your journey analogy, you’re at the top of the hill and surveying a new landscape, right?

NL: Absolutely! I take time to enjoy successes, for sure. However, I know that challenges lie ahead, and issues can rise from the rear. All I have to do is take that time to map out a way onward. This becomes my guiding light and allows me to move in the right direction, which is always forward. 

To invite Natalie Lowe for speaking opportunities, or to book Natalie for a consultation click here.
Check out The Orangeblowfish creativity showcase, here.


About TEDx NYU Shanghai

TEDx NYU Shanghai is a grassroots initiative led by NYU Shanghai portal students. Dedicated to TED’s mission of researching and discovering “ideas worth spreading”, TEDx NYU Shanghai builds upon NYU Shanghai’s unique multicultural spirit to create a platform for diverse ideas to meet and inspire a new generation of innovative thinkers. Organized by passionate club members, TEDx NYU Shanghai events seek to uncover new ideas and share the latest research, sparking conversations and bringing the spirit of TED to university communities.

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