Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. In today’s chaotic world, the future belongs to those who can imagine, influence, create and collaborate. As I wrote in my pre-Davos piece, it is important for each of us to rise above the urgency of our daily to-do lists to engage in the conversations that are shaping our fast-changing world. We have more ways than ever to do that whether we attend Davos or not.
Here are the questions that World Economic Forum (WEF) asks of us: How do we save the planet without killing economic growth? Can you be a patriot and a global citizen? What should work look like in the future? How do we make sure technology makes life better not worse? How do we create a fairer economy? How do we get countries working together better?
This is a brief recap of the highlights of my week at WEF from the perspective of someone deeply interested in how leaders can create a better future amidst chaos. It is also a call to each of us to widen our perspective and to add our much-needed voice to the essential challenges of our time.
It is obvious the moment you drive up through the 4-foot-high snow-banks into Davos that there are many agendas happening, global and individual. With 600+ simultaneous sessions on topics ranging from Globalization 4.0 to the need to reskill millions of people during the fourth industrial revolution, to impacts of climate change, to cybersecurity and technology policy, your individual agenda drives what you curate on your calendar. It is the place that more Fortune 500 CEO’s can look each other in the eye to make deals in 30 minute meetings. It’s the place that heads of state can drive their agenda to engage (or not) in the world. This year several heads of state (U.S., France, U.K., China, Russia) were conspicuously missing, some dealing with troubles at home. It’s also the place where leaders seek to influence in the chaos where no one is in charge but everyone is impacted by the others’ actions. What are the leadership qualities required to do that?
Leadership 4.0 was coined by WEF founder Klaus Schwab in 2016. He suggested that we need a new model to lead in the 4th industrial revolution: “We need leaders who are emotionally intelligent, and able to model and champion co-operative working. They’ll coach, rather than command; they’ll be driven by empathy, not ego. The digital revolution needs a different, more human kind of leadership.”
Throughout the week, I found evidence of leaders collaborating to create eco-systems of learning and action. Here are the highlights of my Davos experience:
Human + machine – There was a lot of conversation in Davos about the future of work for humans in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). I recommend Paul Daugherty’s book Human + Machine to wrap our heads around how humans and computers will collaborate in the future. Through multiple emerging use cases they describe a world where AI can improve the state of humanity and help us solve some of the most pressing issues of our time. At the same time, AI will require reskilling millions of workers and will significantly shape the future of work. Many organizations are preparing to reskill workers. Suzanne Kounkel, partner at Deloitte shared her company’s bold commitment to reskill 50 million workers in their ecosystem. Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, talked about the need to create a culture of trust with employees and partners in a world where the pace of change makes humans insecure. To learn more on this topic and WEF’s initiatives go here.
Shaping technology policy – We live in a world of bytes without borders. Who has the power to regulate and ensure that technology helps us move toward utopia rather than dystopia? Eco-system thinking and public-private partnerships are critical. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, who headed the WEF this year (along with six young people from around the world) spoke to the urgent need for new global norms on privacy, data and Artificial Intelligence.
Safeguarding our planet and its people – There were many conversations on climate change. One that I participated in is Matt Damon’s work with Water.org. He talked about the mission of the organization: “We envision a world where everyone has access to clean water…and we envision it in our lifetimes.” He spoke about what makes this personal for him. He wants his four daughters to achieve their dreams and realized that it is the young girls and women around the world that are often kept away from school and a more empowered future because they are tasked with fetching water.
Gender equality – This year 22% of participants in Davos were women. We are a long way from gender equality at Davos. A great place for conversations about advancing gender equality globally was The Female Quotient (FQ Lounge) curated by Shelley Zalis. Here CEO’s such as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Tim Ryan of PwC shared the work each is doing to advance gender equality in their respective organizations and beyond. Tim Ryan has created CEOAction to get other CEO’s to commit to diversity and inclusion and share best practices. Bloomberg’s Kiersten Barnet shared the gender equality index selecting 230 companies committed to transparency in gender reporting and advancing women in the workplace. Cindy Robbins CHRO of Salesforce spoke about the company’s annual salary audit to correct gender inequity. Marc Pritchard, Chief Marketing Officer of P&G and Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising & Partnerships at NBCUniversal told the story of how a partnership across the industry led by the Association of National Advertisers have created the Gender Equality Measure (GEM) index. Companies can use this index to score gender equity in ads and entertainment so we can together shape how young girls and boys think about what they’re capable of.
Inspiring conversations with young global shapers – Some of the best connections I had were serendipitous conversations with people while standing in line at the bathroom or standing in line to get through security. One such conversation was with a WEF global shaper Natalie Chan from Hong Kong who is working toward growing young leaders in her community. The Global Shapers Community at WEF is a network of city-based hubs with young leaders between 20 and 30 years old who want to serve society and develop their leadership potential.
Coming back from Davos, it is clear to me that the future belongs to those who can imagine it and can create ecosystems of impact. Leaders of the future will be committed to collaborating with others to move forward agendas that are in service of something other than their ego. We are surely not there today, but we need to get there urgently. This is the journey I am interested in and I ask you to join in that journey. Here are some small actions you can take to add your voice to the post-Davos conversations:
- Go to the WEF website and see what sessions inspire you and learn more.
- Familiarize yourself with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the list of 170 small daily actions you can take by downloading the SDGsinAction App.
- Add your voice to the six questions that WEF is asking the global community to engage in.
Here is a recap of some of the accomplishments of Davos 2019.
In the coming weeks and months I will be writing more in-depth stories about some of the fascinating leaders who are embracing Leadership 4.0. They are creating in chaos through connecting with like-minded others. They are moving forward the missions that matter to them to solve the most pressing issues of our time. To learn from them, follow me here or on LinkedIn.
A version of this post first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.