Russ Klein: Magical Realist

Zach Brooke
Leadership Summit 2016
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Key Takeaways
​​What? AMA CEO Russ Klein delivered a speech at Converge: 2016 Leadership Summit about the power of magical thinking.

So what? Describing magic as a combination of positivity and optimism, Klein cited several example of tangible evidence of "magic's" effects.

Now what? Marketers should approach there jobs with love and positivity in order to achieve transformational creative breakthroughs.  

April 30, 2016

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

“Positivity and optimism are the stuff of magic. It’s the magician’s elixir and the opening to possibility thinking which is the stuff of transformational creativity.” – Russ Klein

Converge: 2016 Leadership Summit kicked off on Friday, April 29, at The Westin O'Hare in Chicago. Opening the luncheon ceremonies was none other than American Marketing Association’s CEO Russ Klein, who delivered a powerful message to attendees that could only be described as magical. Some excerpts are highlighted below:

On language:

“Language is the seed of our thoughts and dreams, and when we talk about the magician’s ability to turn dreams into reality it’s with the knowledge that dreams are predictive, too.” 

On leadership vs. management:

“Leadership is about relationships. Perhaps what might surprise you most though is that there is an overwhelming scientifically proven relationship between leadership and the capacity to love. Love is what differentiates leadership from management. Management, of course, is about control. Leadership, conversely, is about self-development and self-examination.” 

On a leader’s conviction:

“People know. They can sense it in an instant whether a leader is working true. I have no doubt each of you enjoys a community of followers predicated on a genuine love of your visions and ability to inspire marketers in your chapters. It’s you who’ve built a sense of interconnectedness and created a hardworking love of marketing in your communities, developing people's fullest capacities to create something wonderful together.

As marketers we all hope to build careers seeing what others don’t, and when we get it right … we’re able to find harmony among the chaos. I think leadership today is about that sort of alchemy. Bring back the hidden dimensions of our human activities and interactions. I feel very privileged to be a leader here in what I believe is the foremost knowledge-based enterprise devoted to marketing.”

On positivity:

“Magical thinking should never be confused with wishful thinking, nor does it belong only to children. … Positivity unlocks more possibilities. Scientists at Brandeis University learned that they could broaden the scope of people’s attention simply by making them feel good. Positivity and optimism are the stuff of magic. It’s the magician’s elixir and the opening to possibility thinking which is the stuff of transformational creativity.”

On what magic is: 

“Magic is pulling things out of thin air, manifesting miracles against the odds, against the gods, hitting home runs with hockey sticks and putting the right elements together the right way to create something iconic.

Magic is a door, a gateway to see that there are transcendent principles active in the world, but we need leaders and heroes to step through the door to champion those principles. Step in, or step out if you don’t agree. There’s no magic in the doorway.” 

On the lack of magical thinking:

“To be totally unmagical is unhealthy. … Who here among us never used body language to remotely guide a bowling ball headed toward the gutter? Or willed our alma mater’s kick back inside the uprights to win the day? In the military it’s called the will of the commander. 

On observable magic:

“Who are we as marketers to say that dreamers are wrong or dreams are wrong? Think about how the phenomenon that was once mocked as magical beliefs can now find safe footing in some element of scientific validity. 

Action at a distance. That’s magic. No, it’s gravitational pull. And there’s a remote control now, of course, that can work through electromagnetic radiation. Magical contagion. The germ theory now shows that we have reason to fear something invisible and negative to be transmitted by contact. Bacteria is our modern day version of old-school curses. And then there’s mind over matter. The placebo effect is of course well documented.”

On gratitude: 

“So in closing, thank you for your luminosity that lights up tomorrow’s possibilities with dreams and love, positivity and yes, magic.” 

Author Bio:
Zach Brooke
Zach Brooke is a staff writer for the American Marketing Association. He can be reached at
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