Leader

A few years ago, I met with a leading CEO on the Island to build an innovation ecosystem. After an hour and a half, I had the sense this was going nowhere fast, and I said, “I can’t help but feel we have the best steak in town, but everyone is a vegetarian.” He laughed and said I was spot on. He explained that although people talked about innovation, upgrading critical thinking and a whole smorgasbord of other wishes, business leaders were comfortable, no one wanted to challenge the status quo.

The status quo has now been well and truly disrupted. With it comes an enormous opportunity for the Island – its companies and the broader community, current business leaders and future entrepreneurs alike. But opportunity isn’t enough. We need to rise to the challenge and turn those opportunities into reality – to unlock value.

The question is how. Here are a few things to set you off in the right direction.

1. Reflect and (re)calibrate

Business leaders are humans first. Leaders often feel they need to be a particular type of person to be a leader, to project strength and confidence. To continue down a specific path because that’s what was decided or indeed, what’s expected.

COVID has had a seismic effect on all of us, costing us dearly – in loss of life, emotional anguish and financial loss. Events like this impact us to the core. They can break us or make us stronger. We shouldn’t block out these events and the hurts they have caused but instead leverage them to up our game. Not to be tougher but to be wiser. 

If we are wise, we will recognise we don’t have endless tomorrows and reflect on what we are doing with our time – how we are investing it, what we hope to achieve. It’s a time to review our current trajectory and what future we are setting in motion. As leaders, we also need to question how we are getting others to spend their time. Are we getting people to do mind-numbing jobs, or are we engaging our teams in meaningful work?

Above all, we need to ask how we can best leverage our positions of influence to add greater value – to serve, to build back better.

2. Be a leader, not a follower

COVID was not a black swan event – a term coined by Nassim Taleb in his bestselling 2007 book. Indeed, Bill Gates, Laurie Garrett, and Taleb himself predicted such an event. But busy in our day to day lives, we ignored it or worse, assumed someone else had their hand on the tiller. That someone somewhere had a plan. The evidence shows otherwise.

Other events are predicted too, such as climate change and the fourth industrial revolution. We know about them, but what are we doing to address them? Are we waiting for the government to put new regulations in place before we take action, or are we going to step up, question our current practices and lead by example? Are we going to be proactive or reactive?

3. Create a climate of collaboration

Contrary to popular belief, just because you are the leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Great leaders dare to surround themselves by people who are smarter than them. They get their ego out of the way, challenge their preconceived notions and take on new ideas and perspectives. They foster an environment of trust and fair play (i.e. not taking on someone’s idea and making it out as their own). And they are decisive – they have the courage to make a decision – in a timely way. This is particularly important for companies collaborating with entrepreneurs and innovators where time is of the essence. 

COVID is with us. It’s part of our reality. It has made us closer and made us appreciate things we previously took for granted. Let’s learn from the past year. Let’s leverage that same spirit of unity and collaboration to rebuild our economy beyond the next quarter. Let us instead commit to build back better, creating companies and a country where future generations don’t just survive but thrive. 

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