I knew I was in for a treat when at 9am Rasmus Bagger passionately exclaimed, to a room of more than a thousand corporate executives, that emotions matter...
In the realm of modern-day leadership, a profound shift is underway. For too long, our focus on efficiency and productivity has led us astray, disconnecting us from our core human values. We've witnessed the rise of leaders defined by technical & financial capabilities or exclusive circles. However, at this year's Presidents Summit, I found hope in the resurgence of soft power. This new narrative propels emotional intelligence, motivation, mindfulness, human intelligence, and intuition to the forefront. However, the summit's ideas often revolved around quick fixes and formulas promising instant results. But authentic leadership grounded in humanity requires more than just acknowledgment; it necessitates responsibility for the products we offer, our colleagues, and the planet we inhabit. Embracing this responsibility is what will enable us to forge a future of positive change.
Here are my 4 takeaways from the summit summarising the soft skills critical to successful leadership:
1. A spotlight on emotional intelligence
Rasmus Bagger's emphasis on emotional fitness shed light on the role of emotions in effective leadership. Leaders need to better handle their own emotions and understand those of others. Mikkel Severin further underscored the importance of openly discussing feelings at work, emphasising that the top 1% of organisations have a unique characteristic— they openly talk about feelings within the business. This emphasis on emotional well-being and fostering a culture that values emotions set these companies apart. Stephen M.R. Covey proposed a transformation in leadership from demand and control to trust and inspiration, and Leslie K. John from Harvard Business School highlighted vulnerability as a catalyst for constructive feedback and improved employee motivation.
2. Motivation is a crucial soft power
Dan Ariely's insights revealed that intrinsic factors, such as a sense of safety and fairness, drive us more than extrinsic rewards. Employee productivity was higher when people received affirming messages rather than cash rewards. Companies that prioritised employee satisfaction, even in seemingly trivial aspects like office coffee, experienced positive effects on stock prices. As we increasingly navigate remote work environments, understanding and nurturing intrinsic motivation becomes even more critical.
3. Promoting mindfulness & awareness through leadership
George Mumford and Srikumar Rao emphasised the power of choice and our ability to control reactions and responses to problems. Mindfulness and awareness practices were highlighted for their transformative impact on decision-making and creating healthier work environments.
4. Sharpening the skill of intuition
NYT Best-selling author Jen Sincero encouraged leaders to tap into their intuition, describing it as a tool that grows more powerful with practice and experience. While analytical thinking remains crucial for high-stakes decisions, there are moments when trusting intuition is essential. She emphasised the importance of building confidence in intuitive decision-making alongside data-driven approaches.
Is it that easy?
As we reflect on the discussions and insights shared at the Presidents Summit, the shift towards a leadership approach that values the human experience is both exciting and promising. However, we must remember that the realities of human interactions are often messy and intricate. It takes time, dedication, and a genuine commitment to unravel these complexities and build emotionally thriving organisations.
It’s a great start, but there is a need for more nuanced and challenging conversations on the topics highlighted in this post. It is in these difficult conversations that we can explore the intricacies of human-centric leadership and uncover new insights and possibilities. By leaning into the complexity, we can continue to evolve and shape a future where leaders lead with both their minds and their hearts, for stronger organisations.