Davos may be full of leaders – but that does not stop them questioning how their roles could change.
The pervading theme this year is of extraordinary change and challenge – ‘ we don’t have a moment to loose’; ‘we have to do things differently’; ‘this is a moment in history’; ‘there is a crisis of consent’ are phrases I’ve heard from academics, CEO’s and politicians. Yet whilst there is broad rhetorical agreement, conversations about the means of action are less clear. In this Davos blog, I’m going to concentrate on what this means for leadership. In the panels I have attended and conversations I have had – there are two emerging themes which stood out beyond the normal leadership rhetoric of purpose, values etc. These are:
Reflecting on what these two themes mean for how leaders are developed – it strikes me that neither can be ‘bolted on’ to current leadership. Instead they have to be ‘baked in’ to the very core of what a leader does and how they spend their time. For example, ‘leading in a multi-stakeholder world’ means a significant and probably early commitment to spending time with people who are different. It’s only through these committed time periods that deep understanding and empathy can emerge. We know that empathic relationships and broad networks take time to develop. Similarly, ‘leading in the society’ cannot suddenly emerge from classical leadership training. Again it requires a deep understanding and empathy with the challenges and dilemmas faced. It also needs the courage to understand that whilst the short term stock market may require a leader to simply make a return on profits – the society in which they are a member requires much more of them.