18 May

Leadership day 2020 – A short insight

It’s thirsty thursday at Partner Consulting and our thirst was quenched listening to some great speakers !

We had an opportunity to attend leadership day 2020. It’s an yearly event which is happening for the 19th year and it’s the first year it happened virtually as mentioned by Svend Askær, Chairman of Ledernes Organisation . Nearly 2500 online attendees who took part today had an option to raise questions through a common digital platform which was well articulated to the speakers for answers by host Mette Vestergaard.

Theme of this year was Sustainable Leadership and Digitalization. Kudos to Lederne organisation for choosing the right theme for the times we are in. Keynote speakers this year were:

  1. Lise Kingo, Board Member and Ex. CEO – UN Global Compact
  2. Mads Nipper, CEO, – Grundfos
  3. Nana Bule – Administrative Director – Microsoft Denmark
  4. Annemarie Meisling, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs – Chr. Hansen

Excerpts from Lise Kingo’s speech:

Lise started by saying, it is exactly 5 years ago, the 17 UN sustainable development goals(SDGs) were formulated. We are way behind on these goals with a worrying lag particularly in Climate action and Social inequality. Lise shared some statistics from the UN Global Compact Analysis wherein 92% of the interviewed leaders said sustainability is part of their KPIs / success parameter, 48% said they will do what they can to achieve their sustainable goals, only 21% said they are happy with the way they are progressing in their sustainability goals.

She also briefly touched upon the ten principles of UN Global Compact which were derived from universal declaration of human rights, International labour organization’s fundamental principles and UN convention against corruption. Lise mentioned the importance of leadership when it comes to sustainability agenda of an organization. She also shared the statistics from a recent study done by Russell Reynolds and UN Global Compact wherein they studied nearly 4000 role specifications for C-suite leaders in board roles worldwide. Out of all these role specifications, only 15% role specification had a reference to sustainability in one form or the other and just 4% role specification demanded sustainability experience / mindset. This is a staggering statistic that emphasize the importance of having right leadership skill and mindset if an organization has to succeed in its green agenda. Lise also shared another interesting study wherein 55 sustainability pioneers  were asked about their journey to sustainability. Based on their answers, they could classify them into 3 groups. 45% of these pioneers were “Born believers” i.e they always had sustainability thoughts from their early age, 43% of them were “The convinced” i.e they got increasing understanding of the importance of sustainability as they advanced, 12% were “The Awoken” i.e they had a pivotal moment of realization through major event / happening.

Overall, Lise’s speech was insightful bundled with key statistics highlighting the importance that sustainability and leadership go hand in hand.

Excerpts from Mads Nipper’s speech:

Mads started by remembering the tough COVID times we are in and stressed the importance of effective leadership now than ever before. He shared his leadership wisdom wherein he constantly tells his employees at Grundfos that “We will come out of this, we will not only survive this tough time but we will come out stronger than ever before”. His advice to all leaders was to reiterate this message of hope with conviction and belief and never sound unsecured to the employees. He said, sustainability journey is pretty hard and takes years of perseverance and focus . If the journey was easy, all companies would have accomplished their goals without much fuss.

He mentioned that sustainability journey will succeed if it is part of corporate strategy spearheaded by people at the top. Top leadership should be clear on what role they play in this journey and it is the job of all leaders in the organization to take this message to the employees and evangelise it. Mads remembered – one of  his first actions after taking over Grundfos was to dismantle a CSR team of 16 people and thereby erase the mindset among employees that any sustainability initiative belongs to this CSR team alone and its applicable only to those 16. That’s how Grundfos started its sustainability journey as “one team”. What a master stroke by the leader and pioneer of sustainability in Denmark. Isn’t it? He also mentioned how the once famous quotes of economist Milton Friedman – “The Business of business is business” is no longer relevant.

Mads also mentioned that simple changes in our everyday interactions with others could make a big difference. He also spiced his words up with an example. When you meet your colleague in coffee area, don’t ask him how’s he doing? (‘Hvordan går det’ in Danish) Rather ask him, how is he feeling? (‘Hvordan har du det’ in Danish) By asking the question the first way, we are curtailing his words and emotions and by asking the same question a bit differently, we are letting him loose to speak freely and that’s the care we need to show each other in this trying time.  Mads ended his session by asking all leaders to just think about a simple question “What will the world miss if my company was not there”. Simple but profound thought from the sustainability guru. Agree?

Excerpts from Nana Bule’s speech:

Nana touched upon the role of digitalization for a more sustainable world. She mentioned that digitalization and sustainability go hand in hand and she would not have said this twenty years back stressing the importance of digitalization for a sustainable world. Nana also shared results from a poll in Microsoft wherein 86% of the people opted to work from home whereas only 14% opted to work from home before Covid times.

She mentioned that her teams in Microsoft are used to holding friday bars over Teams Meet and how prepared they were that they could change their work pattern and the way they conduct courses and handle their customers differently just after a day after Denmark got locked down on March 11th. She also mentioned that 5 to 6 Million tons of C02 / year got emitted by business travel/ travel to work by their employees in Microsoft before Covid.

Nana also prescribed some principles/keywords for any sustainability agenda to succeed. (i) Clear vision, (ii) Shorter strategy cycle(sprints), (iii) Empowerment, (iv) Destruction of Silos, (v) Creation of energy and motivation will help achieve ones sustainability goals.

Considering the size of this article and your time, we are limiting Annemarie Meisling’s speech to few key lines.

Annemarie in her speech used a Bonsai tree as a metaphor for future company. She stressed the fact that a corporate goal no matter what it is should not be in powerpoints and in backdrop of reception, rather it should be deep rooted in people’s mind. She ended her session by asking all to “Think if your grandchild asks you why did you not do anything to improve when you had a chance”.

With this words of wisdom, we sign off. Let’s make a difference and not only run business as Mads Nipper said in 2016 in the podium of United Nations.

 

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