Leadership and Legacy Under The Spotlight at #HRVision14

Three hours in to HRVison14 and we’ve been hearing a lot about leadership. In amongst the presentations on culture change and learning, and during the almost complete silence as people listened, spellbound to Tim Macartney, the underlying theme is leadership.

Tim said:

Leadership is a choice.
An invitation to become truly courageous.
Explore what would make a beautiful life.

He captivated the 200+ delegates with a passionate plea to create a greater purpose, to challenge the notions of wealth accumulation, competition and streamlining by having business purpose & values centred around being proud of what have achieved in this lifetime.

He channeled the native American Indians “no product or service, no manner in the way we do business, should be allowed to impact the children for seven generations to come“. In their eyes he believed that today’s core leadership focuses of competition, market share and being top in their field may ultimately seem like hollow victories.

Before Tim we had heard from Frans van Houten, Global CEO of Phillips, on their global culture transformation. Bringing about change within a traditional, established global business, with embedded organisational structures and inevitable silo mentalities, takes time and a fresh approach – “it’s easy for established businesses to work in silos that create a survivor mentality, inevitably leading to people ducking decision rather than taking risk

A few of his messages that I noted were:

  • Focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, bringing value to customers that makes them smile and makes them happy
  • Always act with integrity
  • It’s not about working harder but about working differently
  • Equip people with new tools, it will help them solve different problems
  • You need to make sure that change doesn’t just happen on the surface
  • Courageous conversations break the cycle of victim mentality and complaining mindset
  • Make the purpose your ‘north star’, the guiding principle that everyone wants to follow

Clearly all this requires a huge shift of mindset from leadership, particularly those used to meeting challenges by shuffling the org structures. Frans was particularly scathing of those who change structures expecting an uplift in performance; his preference was for agile teams created around a problem or project operating across functions.

The session after Phillips was from GE who spoke of strong leaders having a confident humility and learning agility. Their philosophy – Together, we all rise.

Starwood Hotels later spoke of leaders needing to embrace individualism, identity and inclusion within their teams (diversity is nothing without inclusion) whilst at the same time supporting them in making emotional intelligence, continuous feedback and management by objectives core leadership skills to meet developing workforce expectations.

Leaders usually take the plaudits when business performance is strong, when share price and profits are unceasing, so it’s probably right that they are under the spotlight when things need to change.

The words vision, value and opportunity have been heard quite a lot this morning but it was the concepts of legacy and sustainability – most notably from Tim Macartney’s session – that have probably really got most of the HR professionals here talking and thinking.


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