This week’s article, written by Maureen Metcalf, was originally published by the Forbes Coaches Council. This article is a companion to the interview Cynthia Cherry, President and CEO and Mike Hardy, Board Chair of the International Leadership Association did with Maureen and is part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series. This series features speakers from the Annual ILA Conference that occurred in October of 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland. The interview titled ILA – Being the Living Model for Reimagining Leadership Together on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast aired on Tuesday, April 12th, 2022.
As we continue to experience unprecedented change and anticipate the rate of change will continue to accelerate, I believe we as leaders, thought leaders and academics need to rethink what it means to be a highly effective leader and how to develop these leaders. I have been a Fellow with the International Leadership Association since 2019. As part of this Fellowship, I “work at the intersection of leadership research and practice” and “value rigor and relevance at the nexus of leadership theory and effective practices resulting in thoughtful action-based work.”
This year, I attended the 23rd Annual Global Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, focusing on Reimagining Leadership Together. Geneva is a worldwide center for diplomacy because of the number of international organizations, including the headquarters of many agencies of the United Nations, The Geneva Center for Security Policy and the Red Cross. Geneva hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world.
Geneva’s standing as a center for diplomacy and dialogue made it a productive location to host a conversation about reimagining leadership together. The conference was sponsored by The Geneva Center for Security Policy and Arizona State University. Both focused on developing leaders and leadership.
This year, I attended and participated in three presentations, one focusing on the future of work.
Several things stood out to me about the conference for leaders, coaches and scholars. First, the following speakers offered global insights that each of us can shift to ask how we reimagine our work as leaders across our sphere of influence.
1. One of my favorite conversations was with Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada. She talked about the responsibilities of leaders to act from the perspective of being a good ancestor. As a former head of state, she took a global view of trends she sees now and what she anticipates emerging during her life and beyond. She meets with the Council of Women World Leaders, giving her a unique perspective on the type of leadership required to navigate our global challenges, such as climate change and escalated tensions geopolitically. The question I took away from our conversation was: What do I need to do now to be considered a good ancestor to future generations? Will I contribute to solving or exacerbating the challenges we face? (Here is the link to Kim’s interview: Reimagining Our Leadership to be a Good Ancestor.)
2. John, Lord Alderdice asked who we are loyal to when making decisions. This conversation struck me as crucial for leaders seeking a path forward that diverges from the past. We often make choices that pit our loyalty to those who went before us against our commitment to future generations. For example, if we stay true to our legacy views on diversity, we will perpetuate bias. On the other hand, if I stay true to my sincere commitment to treating everyone fairly, I need to look within myself and identify areas where I act with bias. Lord Alderdice talked specifically about populations that continue to advocate for positions that lock them in violent conflict — not resolved if they continue to fight for their history. These conflicts have waged for generations and won’t be easily solved by a short article, but we can each ask, “Where do my biases and loyalties reduce my ability to create the future I want to see?” (Here is the link to John’s interview: Finding Peace When in Conflict.)
3. Christopher Washington, Provost of Franklin University, facilitated a panel looking at the volume of change we will continue to see during our careers. His panel discussed the ethical questions about how we train our workforce and our leaders to ensure our communities and citizens have work that allows them to fulfill their purpose and support their families. How do universities, businesses, NGOs and government organizations come together to build bridges that enable people to navigate society-wide transitions? (Here is the link to Christopher’s interview: Post-Pandemic Approaches to Developing Future Fit Employees.)
4. Ambassador Thomas Greminger’s, Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, talked about the importance of leaders expanding how they define and carry out their leadership roles. During an era where we see a shift toward fundamentalism and polarization across the globe, we need to build the capacity to handle the current global challenges head-on through dialogue and soft power. To navigate the volume of change, it is essential that leaders learn, unlearn and relearn to keep up with the changes in our world. What views are you letting go of as a leader? Do you have a process to examine your opinions regularly? (Here is the link to Thomas’s interview: Facing a Global Leadership Crisis–Insights from GCSP.)
Each of these speakers, in their way, highlighted the importance of reexamining how we lead and how we make sense of what we see, reflecting on what we are learning, and unlearning. Then, we need to use that process of sense-making, reflection, unlearning and updating our thinking to shape our actions as leaders.
These annual conferences leave me feeling inspired by the brilliant people worldwide leading the changes we see. But they also remind me of the magnitude of the gap we have to fill to create a truly peaceful and prosperous world for all. So, as a reader of this article, what action is uniquely yours to do to build the world you want future generations to inherit?
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About the Author
Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash