Inside the World Business Forum Day 1 - Second Half
Between the morning and afternoon sessions at the World Business Forum, I hustled across the street from Radio City Music Hall and listened to a panel discussion presented by MWW Group. The panel consisted of David Gergen, former White House Advisor, Jim Quigley, chief executive officer of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and Arkadi Kuhlmann, chairman and president of ING DIRECT USA. Entitled, Sustainable Leadership, one of the most intriguing takeaways from the panel was the shared perspective that trust is paramount to leadership, and that this reality has never seemed so ironic. With business and political leaders regularly losing the trust of the larger public, the panel agreed that one of the more fascinating leadership questions of the day is how to reconcile the general lack of trust in modern leaders? Building from that, this afternoon's presenters offered insights into how to handle this question.
Li's experience and expertise in social media is fascinating. It sheds light on the world we're beginning to enter, and suggests that the game is shifting. Social media outlets are tools to connect with customers transparently, offering leaders the opportunity to engage people in a more personal capacity. From Facebook to Twitter, Li suggests that corporations can showcase their best selves through interacting and communicating openly online. Whether organizations encourage front-line employees to reach out to customers through question and answer platforms or CEOs communicate to customers about future products, concerns, ideas, etc., these channels are facilitating dialogue, partnerships, and sharing. Finally, Li touched on the importance of failure and inventiveness in further engaging in our uber-connected world. She suggests that social media should drive strategy, encourage shifts in a leader's approach, and motivate organizations to prepare for how social media can be adopted to support the vision of the organization, but mistakes are inevitable. It's a new frontier, but a powerful tool to honestly connect with employees, customers, and clients alike.
Lindsstrom, dressed in Johnny Cash black and very much the up-beat showman, quickly began questioning the audience's ability to multitask. With video, a brief exercise, and some stats Lindstom drove home the point that our information-saturated society only complicates our inability to multitask. As human beings, we simply cannot effectively engage in several tasks at once. Subsequently, through more video, stories, and a multi-sensory presentation that ended with credits and its own theme music, Lindtrom took the audience on a journey into the future of branding. In short, leaders need to express their brand comprehensively, and the more features associated with the brand, the better - color, shape, name, sound, etc. As Lindstrom points out, we live in an impatient and often disconnected world, and a brand that speaks to clients passionately, personally, and ubiquitously will be much more likely to connect with consumers. For leaders, the takeaway seems simple, engage people passionately, connect with them regularly, and address them in varying ways consistently, and you'll be more likely to build a team that is loyal and motivated.
Grenny, in his dark grey suit and florid tie, went into a tempered yet impassioned argument about how to best influence others. In drawing on his vast research in the field of influencing others, Grenny highlighted that by altering small behaviors massive changes may result. If leaders can influence moderate change in their customers, partners, colleagues, etc., the impact can be monumental. In encouraging change, leaders can gain momentum with stories, facilitating practice, leveraging the social component of change (i.e., everybody's doing it, and we're counting on you too), incentives, and environmental prompts. With these levers, leaders can influence dramatic changes in their organizations and beyond.
Finally, Gergen echoed much of what he conveyed earlier as a panelist in the afternoon's luncheon about contemporary leadership: The times no longer support draconian leadership tactics, and sincerity and honesty are the coin of the realm. Gergen is adept at pointing out that the method of leadership in today's world is different from years ago - it's softer, kinder, more methodic. Highlighting the efforts of Immelt and Petraeus, Gergen suggests that thoughtfulness and consideration are the traits of astounding leadership. Personal relationships are vital, patience is necessary, experience and skill are critical, and today's leaders are much stronger exuding a gentle, thoughtful and patient persona. Finally, Gergen suggests that, "the Baby Boomer generation is not working out very well," but their children want to make change, they want to help the United States and they want to make a positive impact.
All in all, the first day of the HSM World Business Forum was outstanding, and I look forward to being back with more insights and highlights.
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October 5, 2010; 2:27 PM ET
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