Introducing the HUMANitarian leader
The advent of a new decade, with a backdrop of global political instability and widespread disruption, brings many unique demands on our leaders. In all spheres of business and political life, there is a recognition that new direction – and new values – are needed to restore faith in leadership. Many organisations are responding by touting the values of purpose-led leadership – essentially to provide employees and key stakeholders with a deep sense of meaning and direction. Such leadership is also intended to create new opportunities to better and more meaningfully connect with customers. For example, a well-known US low cost airline believes in ‘democratizing the skies’, and this message is core to its leadership and strategy.
In the South African context, we believe that organisational leaders will need to look further afield than their own backyard and begin to tackle global challenges with the lens of purpose-led leadership. This view aligns with the recently revised Davos manifesto – which stresses the importance of the stakeholders’ role in a cohesive and sustainable world’. Indeed, there must be a recognition that companies do not just have a responsibility to generate profits for their investors, but have a responsibility to protect every stakeholder affected by their actions (employees, customers, communities and importantly, the environment).
When looking at the global risks facing both organisations and individuals, such a recognition is becoming non-negotiable. Risks such as climate change, growing inequality and rising unemployment (particularly in SA) must be tackled with responsible, brave and purpose-led leadership. Notably, the respected Global Risks Report released ahead of the World Economic Forum 2020 listed environmental factors as the biggest threat to world order. Moreover, Corporate Social Responsibility has played its role thus far – but it can no longer be side-lined and treated as a tick-box affair. In essence, doing good for society needs to be part of the core of an organisation’s, and leader’s, competencies.
In a recent engagement between HR leaders and Knowledge Resources on their 2020 priorities, Microsoft HR Director Jasmin Pillay said that the “majority of millennials want to work at an organisation that plays a vital role in addressing issues such as income inequality, hunger and the environment.”
Such a statement is reflective of the values and vision required by the true HUMANitarian leader.
Looking ahead, the traditional intellectual and autocratic leaders will struggle in a world that is now demanding a much greater social conscience, humility and empathy. Today, celebrity CEOs and those that have become ‘uber’ wealthy through their corporate careers will be frowned upon and treated with scepticism.
This is the decade for humanitarian leadership to shine, and there is strong momentum from many corners driving the emergence of leaders who can chart a sustainable course ahead…
Wendy Spalding is business development director at Tuesday Consulting, an executive search and advisory firm.