Focus in Leadership

Corporate leaders today are measured by a new yardstick. The supreme test of a CEO and board of directors is now the value they create not just for shareholders, but for all stakeholders.

The shift to stakeholder capitalism creates pressure for corporate leaders to try to satisfy a wide range of constituencies with different, sometimes conflicting interests and perspectives. Earning their trust is key to navigating this tricky terrain.

Research shows that trust is the key to success. Yet growing distrust, cynicism and misinformation are eroding confidence in corporate impact and Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) claims.

To prosper in the age of stakeholder capitalism, companies must actively cultivate the trust of employees, investors, customers, regulators and corporate partners: developing strategies to understand these stakeholders more intimately, implementing deliberate trust-building actions, tracking their efforts over time, and communicating openly and effectively with key stakeholder groups.

We have entered the trust era: a time where (mis)information is omnipresent, individual perceptions reign supreme, and digital security and data privacy are constantly threatened. Now more than ever, stakeholders expect organizations to do the right things and do them well.

These expectations range from entrusting an organization to safeguard one’s private data to requiring a company to have a strong stance on Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) issues.

Trust also drives performance. When stakeholders trust an organization, their behaviors will reflect that trust can affect more traditional key performance indicators that directly affect financial performance. Trust elevates customer and brand loyalty, which can lead to revenue. It enhances levels of workforce engagement, which can result in increased productivity and retention. And the data confirms it.

Trustworthy companies outperform non-trustworthy companies by 2.5 times, and 88% of customers who highly trust a brand will buy again from that brand. Furthermore, employees’ Trust in their leaders improves job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization and its mission.

Despite the data, however, many leaders and organizations still view trust as an abstract concept. Trust should be managed proactively because, when trust is prioritized and acted upon, it can become a competitive advantage. An organization that positions trust as a strategic priority—managing, measuring, investing in, and acting upon it can ultimately build a critical asset.

No heroic leader can resolve the complex challenges we face today. To address the important issues of our time we need a fundamental change of perspective. We need to start questioning many of our taken-for-granted assumptions about our business and social environments.

Leaders serve as role models for their followers and demonstrate the behavioral boundaries set within an organization. The appropriate and desired behavior is enhanced through the culture and socialization process of the newcomers.

Employees learn about values from watching leaders in action.

The more the leader “walks the talk”, by translating internalized values into action, the higher level of trust and respect he generates from followers.

A good case study is Disney – it strives to design work environments that inspire optimism and drive innovation for all employees, at all levels. And because of this recognize that maintaining an inclusive, supportive workplace requires mindful attention and intention, we continually adapt to the evolving needs of its people. The company’s intention is to put the responsibility for an inclusive culture in the hands of its leaders and employees through comprehensive education and engagement efforts.

We all watched Walt Disney Company (DIS) shares soared last week after the company released its fiscal first-quarter 2024 earnings. The stock had its best day in over three years after the company made a flurry of announcements and markets got a sense that CEO Bob Iger’s turnaround plan has started to show results on the ground.

Since returning to Disney, Bob Iger has inspired hope among employees and investors that he could turn around the entertainment giant — and faced tough challenges, people were a large part of the strategy that gave rise to the changes in fortunes.

To help bridge the trust gap we recognise that organizations need to work with each other and with wider society to identify practicable, actionable steps that businesses can take to shape a new relationship with wider society: a new ‘settlement’ based on mutual understanding and a shared recognition of the positive role that business plays in people’s lives.

To create such a settlement, businesses need to see themselves as part of a diverse, interconnected, and interdependent ecosystem – one that involves government, regulators, individual citizens, and more. Trust within and across this ecosystem is key to its long-term sustainability and survival.

That’s why trust needs to be restored to the heart of the business world.

Has Technology taken the Magic out of the Air?


The London transport system commonly renowned for ‘The Tube’ and ‘Mind the Gap’ reliably transports 1.34 billion people a year across its network and the busiest train station in London is Waterloo station which commutes 95.1 million passengers a year (research provided by transport for London The most common factor in any commuters possession is a mobile device, catching up of online dating, Facebook, LinkedIn, email or an embarrassing phone call for everyone to hear to the date, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband about what is wrong with the relationship.

The facts, do we actually have time for our most precious relationships, do we give the time to build lasting, loving relationships around trust and values or do we constantly feel we can always do better with the latest API or technology app?

As children, we are taught that there will be one true love and that they’re going to solve all our problems and we’ll be happy forever, we are taught to wait for our perfect fit. But that’s not really how it works, is it?

Staggering advances in technology, communications and sciences across the world is one of the defining aspects of the last few decades. From social media websites to free video calling services from anywhere in the world just being a phone’s click away it would appear that the millennial generation has it all. But if we move past all the smartphones and gadgets and websites and take a hard look at the lives of Gen Y, we will notice that dating has become harder than ever.

Some people find it easy to fall in love, others not so much. We tend to fall in love with people who meet a certain criteria in our mind. This subconscious criterion is based on our past experiences, relationship with our parents or events that have happened in our lives. Based on each individual’s subconscious criterion, the reasons vary from person to person on why it’s so hard to fall in love.
When you think about it, despite feeling difficult, the problems people struggle with in dating sound pretty trivial.

For instance, we have been walking and talking our entire lives, yet walking up to an attractive person and opening our mouths to say “hi” can feel impossibly complex to us. People have been using a phone since they were children, yet given the agony some go through just to dial a person’s phone number, you would think they were being waterboarded. Most of us have kissed someone before and we have seen hundreds of movies and instances in real life of other people kissing, yet we still stare dreamily into the object of our affection’s eyes hour after hour, telling ourselves we can never find the “right moment” to do it.

Why? It sounds simple, but why is it so hard?

We build businesses, write novels, scale mountains, help strangers and friends alike through difficult times, tackle the thorniest of the world’s social ills — and yet, when we come face-to-face with someone we find attractive, our hearts race and our minds are sent reeling. And we stall.

Dating advice often compares improving one’s dating life to improving at some practical skill, such as playing piano or learning a foreign language. Sure, there are some overlapping principles, but it’s hard to imagine most people trembling with anxiety every time they sit in front of the keyboard. And I have never met someone who became depressed for a week after failing to conjugate a verb correctly. They are just not the same.

Generally speaking, if someone practices piano daily for two years, they will eventually become quite competent at it. Yet many people spend most of their lives with one romantic failure after another.


What is it about this one area of life that the most basic actions can feel impossible, that repetitive behaviour often leads to little or no change, and that our psychological defense mechanisms run rampant trying to convince us to not pursue what we want?

Why dating and not, say, skiing? Or even our careers? Why is it that a person can conquer the corporate ladder, become a militant CEO, demanding and receiving the respect and admiration of hundreds of brilliant minds, and then flounder through a simple dinner date with a beautiful stranger?

As children, none of us get 100% of our needs met. This is true of you. It is true of me. It is true of everyone. The degree of which our needs are not met varies widely, and the nature of how our needs are unfulfilled differs as well. But it is the sad truth about growing up: we have all got baggage. And some of us have a lot of it. Whether it is a parent who did not hold us enough, who didn’t feed us regularly enough, a father who was not around often, a mother who left us and moved away, being forced to move from school to school as a child and never having friends — all of these experiences leave their mark as a series of micro-traumas that shape and define us.

The nature and depth of these traumas imprint themselves onto our unconscious and become the map of how we experience love, intimacy and sex throughout our lives.

Psychologists believe that romantic love occurs when our unconscious becomes exposed to someone who matches the archetype of parental love we experienced growing up, someone whose behaviour matches our emotional map for intimacy. Our unconscious is always seeking to return to the unconditional nurturing we received as children, and to re-process and heal the traumas we suffered.
In short, our unconscious is wired to seek out romantic interests who it believes will fulfill our unfulfilled emotional needs, to fill in the gaps of the love and nurturing we missed out on as kids. This is why the people we fall in love with almost always resemble our parents on an emotional level.

The attributes that have come to define us and the overexposure that the 21st century human is subjected to leaves no dearth of psychological problems. More and more people each year are diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety problems. This becomes a detriment when it comes to dating. With dissatisfying home, office or academic environments the relationship in many cases become the dumping ground for emotional baggage.

While sometimes it is good to share and spell out feelings as they stand, it is not healthy to keep using your date as an emotional crutch over and over again. It is therefore advisable to work on your trust, abandonment or other issues before embarking on healthy dating choices.

We as human beings have a nasty tendency to crave for more in every aspect of our lives. Before we desire more, we have to learn to be grateful with what we already posses, only that is going to help us obtain more.

Life is confusing, and dating nowadays is more confusing than it has ever been.

Everyone is a commitment-phobe, everyone has attachment issues, no one takes anything seriously.

Maybe there aren’t any right or wrong answers, maybe nothing is black or white. Maybe life is just a big grey blob and you’re meant to create your own rules as you go along; not what that dating book said, or the advice your friends or your therapist gave you.

The fact of the matter is, romance isn’t dead – we’re just in danger of neglecting it. My advice? Visit your Grandmother and Grandfather and have them re-tell stories of how she was wooed by your grandfather; how they spent evenings dancing on the kitchen tiles and how a love note said it way better than a sweeping 140-character tweet.

Brené Brown puts these words into great prospective:

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Design led innovation… the driver of accelerated economic growth

President John F. Kennedy once observed that the word “crisis” in Chinese is composed of two characters; one representing danger, the other opportunity. He may not have been entirely correct on the linguistics, but the sentiment is true enough: a crisis presents a choice.

This is particularly true today.

How are executives responding? As might be expected, they are largely focusing on maintaining business continuity, especially in their core. Executives must weigh cutting costs, driving productivity, and implementing safety measures against supporting innovation-led growth.

Unsurprisingly, investments in innovation are suffering. The executives in a recent survey by McKinsey & Company showed that they strongly believe that they will return to innovation-related initiatives once the world has stabilized, the core business is secure, and the path forward is clearer. However, only a quarter reported that capturing new growth was a top priority (first- or second-order) today, compared to roughly 60 percent before the crisis hit

Possibly the most important discussion around business today, design lead creativity and innovation is about spearheading business reinvention and the disruptive economy.

Innovation, the successful implementation of new ideas, is an important driver of economic growth.

Successful innovation creates customer value through new products, services and processes, giving rise to new markets and economic growth, as well as contributing to higher productivity, lower costs, increased profits and employment. The central role of innovation in creating future prosperity and quality of life is widely acknowledged and accepted. Innovation drives long-term economic growth, and states that:

Innovation… has long been viewed as central to economic performance and social welfare and empirical evidence has confirmed the link between innovation and growth. This means that all businesses must understand the importance of innovation and develop an innovation culture to strengthen its efforts and outcomes. In addition to its growing importance and profile, innovation culture has also evolved in line with developing thinking about the scope and nature of innovation in a disruptive economy.

There is a huge gap between aspiration and reality, McKinsey & Company yearly global CEO report show that 84% of world leaders are still operating in a horizon 1 strategy. Leaders who use vision to navigate the future often employ strategy to help them steer their organizations more effectively toward its destination.

To lead with vision, however, requires a fine balance among what matters today, what we anticipate will matter tomorrow, and how we can create the future through inspired, collective effort. There are three horizons that leaders should understand to ensure that vision unfolds as one would hope. To define the horizon thinking:
• Horizon 1 ideas provide continuous innovation to a company’s existing business model and core capabilities in the short-term.
• Horizon 2 ideas extend a company’s existing business model and core capabilities to new customers, markets, or targets.
• Horizon 3 is the creation of new capabilities and new business to take advantage of or respond to disruptive opportunities or to counter disruption.

Leaders need to see beyond the short termism, uncertainty and address the risks while finding the opportunities in digital disruption, the economy, and geopolitical uncertainties, this requires a horizon 2 and horizon 3 approach. CEO’s are the company’s ultimate strategist.

Less well understood is that she/he is also the ultimate integrator, charged with identifying the issues that span the enterprise and formulating a response that brings all the right resources to bear. To do that well requires a broad range of contradictory perspectives: outside in and inside out; a telescope to see the world and a microscope to break it down; a snapshot view of the immediate issues and a time-lapse series to see into the future with the right lens.

Throughout the world, organizations are seeking ways to streamline their processes and improve employee experiences. One way that is presenting itself as the ultimate panacea to enhancing the customer journey is to create dialectical leadership’ and ‘distributed leadership’ and combine them depending on the situation, to achieve a balance between various contradictory elements such as the ‘tug-of-war between efficiency and creativity’, and demonstrate organizational adaptability.

While strong communication is critical for teams to succeed, businesses need cross-departmental collaboration to move the needle and achieve their overarching goals There is a name for this approach—a holistic growth strategy. The goal of a holistic growth strategy is to unite every department to work together as one cohesive unit. While each team has a different specialty, people complete their tasks with the bigger picture at the forefront of their minds. Each employee will understand and be focused on how their work contributes to the company’s holistic goals, like scaling, boosting return on investment (ROI) and retaining customers. Driving sustainable, inclusive growth requires the right mindset, strategy, and capabilities.

Here are some steps that could help foster successful growth. Companies are now shifting away from that kind of mindset in favour of a more holistic approach. The latter involves considering the impact that every change is going to have on the entire organization, and not just specific functions or departments. The reason behind this approach is to attain a business transformation that is embedded in the very culture of the organization; is aligned with the organization’s purpose, and embraced equally by every single employee– not just enforced upon members by the managers. Such a shift means that the organization holds employees and leaders across each department accountable for their roles in the success of the business. An organization that takes a disjointed approach to implement technology only risks having a section of its employees lacking the skills needed to keep up with today’s fast-paced, disruptive and dynamic business environment.

In my experience, innovative cultures start with a philosophy and a tone one analogous to the classic parenting advice that children need both “roots and wings.” As an innovation leader, you must ground creative people in accountability for the organization’s objectives, key focus areas, core capabilities, and commitments to stakeholders. Then you give them broad discretion to conduct their work in service of those parameters. Obsessing too much about budget and deadlines will kill ideas before they get off the ground. Once your scientists understand that they are ultimately accountable for delivering practical products and processes that can be manufactured affordably, you can trust them to not embarrass you by wasting a lot of money and effort.

This trust helps forge an innovation culture. Innovation parenting also pays attention to innovators’ social development. Millennials, in particular, will expect and seek out opportunities to interact with people who interest and excite them exchanges that should, in turn, build innovation energy. To help individuals see where their work fits in the knowledge ecosystem, encourage relationships with colleagues in the internal innovation chain, from manufacturing to marketing and distribution. I ask my new hires to generate a list of who’s who at Corning within the first few months on the job. This helps them overcome the assumption that many hold that they must do everything themselves.

That’s nonsense; others within the organization often have already sorted through similar problems. Understanding that early in one’s tenure reduces wasted effort and can inspire new bursts of collaborative creativity. Innovation culture is made up of practices that support and strengthen innovation as a significant aspect of progress and growth. It includes all structures, habits, processes, instructions, pursuits, and incentives that institutions implement to make innovation happen. It values, drives, and supports innovative thinking in order for it to be successful on an organizational level. To fully understand the importance of your company’s innovation culture you need to know how this impacts what employees do or say at work every day. This will help establish specific behaviours within the organization such as communication patterns between departments during meetings or who gets credit for new ideas when they come about.

While most business leaders now believe having a diverse and inclusive culture is critical to performance, they don’t always know how to achieve that goal. Continuous innovation stimulates revenue growth and helps companies perform better during economic downturns. Fixation on top-line growth can skew innovation efforts, resulting only in innovative gains from the low-hanging fruit of incremental growth.
Disruptive innovation is only possible when the entire organization is set up for an innovation mindset, a process that starts with proper leadership training. In this environment, nimble decision-making is a companion to rigorous experimentation. Team members must make the best decisions possible as quickly as required. These decisions must be open to re-examination as new information surfaces.

This means that decisions should be refined on an ongoing basis. The need to be “right” must be set aside in favour of continual learning. What was once called “flip flopping” will now be called “learning.” An example of nimble decision-making is an organization that offers training to help participants combine data-based decision-making with intuitive decision making to leverage the power of both. They make decisions at the appropriate point to support the process of experimentation. When experiments are run, participants learn, and prior decisions will be revisited when appropriate and updated. Leaders and their employees must value adaptability, flexibility, and curiosity.
All of these skills and aptitudes support an individual’s ability to navigate rapid change. Employees must remain flexible and focused on the face of ongoing change. They need the capacity to feel comfortable and supported by their colleagues so that they can adapt to planned and unplanned change with creativity and focus.

Trust is one of the most vital forms of capital a leader has today. Amid economic turbulence and global uncertainty, people are increasingly turning to their employers and business leaders as a source of truth, rather than their institutions and government officials. Trust, which can be defined as a belief in the abilities, integrity, and character of another person, is often thought of as something that personal relationships are built on.

A high-trust organization is one in which employees feel safe to take risks, express themselves freely, and innovate. When trust is instilled in an organization, tasks get accomplished with less difficulty because people are more likely to collaborate and communicate with each other in productive ways. As a result, outcomes tend to be more successful. No heroic leader can resolve the complex challenges we face today. To address the important issues of our time we need a fundamental change of perspective. We need to start questioning many of our taken for granted assumptions about our business and social environment.

Leaders serve as role models for their followers and demonstrate the behavioural boundaries set within an organisation. The appropriate and desired behaviour is enhanced through culture and socialisation process of the newcomers. Employees learn about values from watching leaders in action. The more the leader “walks the talk”, by translating internalized values into action, the higher level of trust and respect he generates from followers. To help bridge the trust gap we recognise that organisations need to work with each other and with wider society to identify practicable, actionable steps that businesses can take to shape a new relationship with wider society: a new ‘settlement’ based on mutual understanding and a shared recognition of the positive role that business plays in people’s lives.

To create such a settlement, businesses need to see themselves as part of a diverse, interconnected and interdependent ecosystem one that involves government, regulators, individual citizens and more. Trust within and across this ecosystem is key to its long-term sustainability and survival. That’s why trust needs to be restored to the heart of the business world.

Positive habit formation is a method that successful athletes have tried and tested. It entails identifying what behaviour is required to achieve a win and establishing a routine to reinforce this. To apply it in business, ask yourself: what consistent actions do I need to start taking that would improve my overall performance? For instance, if meetings with a certain colleague often overrun, it’s worth considering how that time is being used, adopting a more efficient format and then embedding this through repetition. Great performance is as much about the purpose and culture of the organisation. These beliefs are found in the vision, ethos and values, leadership, the strategy and plans, in people, and importantly that people are trusted to make things happen. Reconnecting with your purpose and values will make it possible, when this crisis has passed, to look back with pride at how your company responded.

Culture always matters, but it matters now more than ever. If these core attributes are applied to the business then high-performance leaders must have an overwhelming desire to lead and that the desire to lead must be for the right reasons. It is only through having this overwhelming desire that they will have the emotional energy, enthusiasm, stamina and drive to undertake the unremitting pressure and sustained hard work required to turn an average organisation into a high performing one.

Events have changed our world and the way that we work in an extraordinarily short time. It is becoming increasingly evident that we will have to live with and adapt to these changes for a long time and it is far from certain that we will ever return to life exactly as it was before the pandemic. These changes bring with them great challenges and risks. These are uncharted and difficult waters to navigate. However, in our view there are also great opportunities, and these challenges can be met where leaders are able to move from a crisis management mindset to thinking about how to run their businesses differently, with a strong focus on culture.

Company’s that get this wrong run the risk of poor conduct, low staff morale and ultimately, weak future performance. However, those that find ways to nudge behaviours in the right direction have the chance to build business models and resilient cultures that adapt to the new circumstances with positive outcomes for customers, employees and investors.

It’s important to have a holistic strategy that enables people to work effectively with colleagues regardless of location. Key to this is a shared purpose and a sense of cohesion. This strategy should be driven from the top and include all teams. Equip and trust your people to build and use capabilities that suit them. Provide support from a mental wellbeing perspective help people find ways of working and connections that work best for them in this new world of work. AI can be used to help employees make better decisions and focus on higher-value tasks, whilst also boosting inclusivity and sparking creativity.

Your people are the heartbeat of your business. Leaders must ensure people have the right skills and technology to succeed and the ability to innovate wherever and however they work. They must meet the needs of every individual embracing diversity in all forms. An effective culture gives people not only the means to be productive but the drive to innovate, adapt, and progress. Support the workplace with technologies that suit remote, office, and frontline workers while keeping them secure. Organisations need an integrated and intelligent approach to security, powered by the cloud and AI. Customer trust is everything. Therefore, ensuring employees have access to the information they need, wherever they are, whilst maintaining security, privacy, and regulatory compliance is vital. Key to the hybrid workplace is human centred design and complemented is a technology platform that allows strategic direction and a strong culture.

Finally, the essential practices underpinning distinctive innovation have not changed in this time of crisis, but the relative emphasis and urgency of where businesses should focus has.

Above all, organizations need to realize that innovation, now more than ever, is a choice. Regardless of the relative emphasis and order, which for years have helped leading innovators more than double the total returns to shareholders compared to laggards, will continue to be critical in navigating and emerging even stronger from this crisis.

As Tim Brown, former CEO of IDEO, once said:

“The transformation of a business-as-usual culture into one focused on innovation and driven by design involves activities, decisions, and attitudes. Workshops help expose people to design thinking as a new approach. Pilot projects help market the benefits of design thinking within the organization. Leadership focuses the program of change and gives people permission to learn and experiment. Assembling interdisciplinary teams ensures that the effort is broadly based. Dedicated spaces such as the P&G Innovation Gym provide a resource for longer-term thinking and ensure that the effort will be sustained. Measurement of impacts, both quantitative and qualitative, helps make the business case and ensures that resources are appropriately allocated. It may make sense to establish incentives for business units to collaborate in new ways so that younger talent sees innovation as a path to success rather than as a career risk.”