Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending DCU’s Leadership and Talent Institute Conference on the subject of “Leadership for a Sustainable World” The content of the day was insightful and provided great food for thought. Particularly interesting for me is that many of the principles and points being made were simple and very much back to basics i.e. being respectful, taking responsibility, being aware and having integrity.

There were speakers from all over the globe – and while it was great to hear from thought leaders in Darla Moore School of Business, University of Boston, Unilever, Maturity Institute, DCU and Joe Schmidt, next year it would be great to hear from Irish companies as to how we are making a difference and contributing to the Leadership and Talent discussion.Food for thought from the day.According to Professor Pat Wright of the University of South Carolina, Succession planning is critical to business sustainability – the risk of getting it wrong is very costly and this is well documented.

Research shows that traits of successful CEO’s include humility, willingness to accept feedback and unselfishness. On the other hand, traits of unsuccessful CEO’s are arrogance, failure to listen and selfishness.According to Stuart Woollard of the Maturity Institute we need to think in terms of “Societal Value” ie the best quality at lowest cost (including cost to the environment & society) Companies should be managing people for value not cost. Stuart had plenty of examples to support this theory eg Costco & Toyota. They have a focus on Societal value and guess what? Their margins are a lot higher than those of their closest competitors.

Doug Baillie, ex CHRO of Unilever spoke about the Unilever’s VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complicated and ambiguous. Unilever strives to be a giver to society not a taker, to make a positive social impact and to reconnect with individuals and communities. And what does leadership look like in a VUCA world in 2020? Leaders will be values based with purpose – they will be authentic, adaptable, resilient, systematic thinkers and results oriented. How do you get started in establishing sustainable leadership? You must start at the top with role models who lead from the front. These role models must be courageous and committed and help people to work out what their individual purpose and contribution might be. It starts today – what will your contribution be?

Joe Schmidt, Irish Rugby Coach talked passionately about taking responsibility and being accountable. This needs to be passed down the line, we all have a role to play. It is not what you say it is what you do! Circumstances are not always perfect, you just have to work with what you have and get yourself into a place to be useful. Always acknowledge people for their performance and contribution. No point in doing something efficiently that does not need to be done at all.I particularly liked this point, do the ground work, build a firm foundation and then use this as a springboard. Make sure that you have a context before you embark on your bold plan. Last, but by no means least, never overlook the importance of saying good morning to your team every day. By acknowledging employees at all levels you are building engagement and confidence and buy-in. Simple, cost free but effective – just ask Joe!

According to Dr Jack McCarthy of the University of Boston we now have a triple bottom line….we need to be able to balance People, Planet and Profit? We need to move from controlling, ordering and predicting to acknowledging, creating and empowering. We need to be curious, connected and considerate! Dr Janine Bosak of DCU finished off the day by discussing the under representation of women at senior executive levels in Irish companies. Despite equal numbers of well-educated men and women joining the work force, by the time they get to senior management and above these ratios are grossly out of sync. Everyone agreed that this needed immediate attention – what people were uncertain about it why this phenomenon exists. Discrimination and stereotyping was discussed as was women’s lack of self-confidence when it really matters. As a working mother of three, I also feel it is directly related to an-inbuilt tendency for Irish women to feel guilt, self-imposed and societal.

Cultural change takes time, but we can all start to-day and make a difference by opening our eyes and watching out for women who are potentially vulnerable in our organisations. So whether from Academia, Private or Public sector, NGO’s or Sports, Ireland, Addis Ababa or the USA, there were common threads throughout the day. Respect, responsibility, awareness, values, community and society. Companies and teams should be values focused and the profits and wins will most certainly follow!
Thanks to DCU Leadership & Talent Institute