Thinking the Unthinkable logo Thinking the Unthinkable logo

New imperative for bold and humble leadership

Halla Tomasdottir

by Halla Tomasdottir

Filed under Coronavirus / Climate Emergency

Halla Tomasdottir is CEO of The B Team, a group of business and civil society leaders collaborating on new corporate norms to promote sustainability and new purpose.

  • Crisis of conformity in leadership
  • Need to end business as usual
  • Need for new creativity and compassion
  • Priority must be to ‘bounce forward’
Images courtesy of Bellyfire Productions

These difficult times seem to be cracking us open, allowing the light to get in, exposing both our beauty and our brokenness.

Hard times often precede great awakenings. If we choose to meet this moment with courage, humility and collective leadership, hope will overcome fear, hate and violence. It is up to us to confront the crisis of conformity in leadership.

Navigating times of crisis is one of the greatest challenges leaders face. And today, leaders face a multitude of interrelated systemic crises—from climate change to the coronavirus outbreak—all in an era of low trust and broken social contracts in many parts of the world.

This requires a different approach to leadership, one that places humanity at its heart.

We can’t always predict the challenges we face in life or in business. But we can determine the type of leaders we want to be when these situations arise. Moments of uncertainty and big challenges call for real leaders to show up and ask: who do we choose to be?

The decisions we make now determine the future for generations to come. We need purpose-driven and principled leadership inside and outside of our organizations.

Such turbulent times call for us to be bold and brave, and respond to the urgency of the moment with creative and compassionate solutions. They also call for us to collaborate widely between business, government and civil society to come up with long-term and inclusive solutions for the future we want and need.

As CEO of The B Team I know I have my work cut out. But there is no better time to take on this challenge.

I can assure you, we are listening and learning and ready to roll up our sleeves. This has to be the end of business as usual.

Together with our leaders and our team we are determined to push for purpose-driven and principled leadership to address our many and complicated challenges. We are determined to help lead a much-needed transformation for our economic system, so that it may serve all people and our planet.

What do I face as a leader?

I generally consider myself pretty fearless. This hasn’t always been the case. But it became a conscious choice after decades of internal dialogue with my “imposter” who constantly challenges me as I try to matter in a world that feels quite broken.

Choosing courage in the face of fear has been a liberating force in my life. It allows me to pursue a challenging career and life choices, even when I don’t feel confident that I know what to do or the way through.

Courage comes from the heart and it allows me to care deeply and dare greatly.

When my head struggles to make sense of things, I drop to my heart until I muster up enough truth and courage to confront what I care about. But these days are testing my fearlessness more than I care to admit. Now it has less to do with the inner imposter and more to do with the world we live in.

From the global pandemic to protests against the deadly pandemic of racism and violence, these are times when I find it hard to hold onto hope and optimism. It is painful to drop to the heart and sense the suffering all around. It is even more painful to see how unevenly the suffering hits and how inadequate our leadership is.

We have yet to realize the full economic impacts of these unprecedented times. But it doesn’t take an economist to see that the impacts are likely to be both deep and long lasting.

We have already printed trillions of dollars to meet this moment. Yet we have mostly failed at aligning these bailouts and recovery “packages” with what the next generation expects; an economic and social reset towards a greener, fairer and more inclusive future.

The “pandemic pause” has shown that we are able to shift our perspectives and behaviours in transformative ways and do so quite quickly. The protests have shown us the power of solidarity and collective action.

We may be living through the most challenging moment in modern history and it is painful in more ways than one. Will we choose to bounce forward or go back to “business as usual?”

We must bounce forward, with a new green economic and societal model. That is why we require new, inspiring leadership that will innovate and transform boldly.

Leave a comment