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Leaders' sudden change in attitude is Davos revelation

by Carley Bowman

TtU Founder and Director Nik Gowing has been in Davos this week at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference. He’s been talking to senior global leaders about the scale and pace of disruption and the new realisation that they need to adapt - and fast. Here’s what two such leaders told him.

The tone and content when chairs and CEOs gathered in various Davos meetings (including the International Business Council) was no longer cautious and conditional. It was a determined view that there is an existential threat to their business. They have to change fast. Not in a year, but weeks and months. Time is short.

Jim Hagemann Snabe
Jim Hagemann Snabe

Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chair of AP Moller-Maersk and Siemens, told me he is astonished by the sudden change in attitudes by those at the top of corporates.

He says it has happened literally in weeks and in many cases days. Five days in Davos have focussed and consolidated with an intensity not witnessed before.

This means purpose and values are now taking centre stage as the core focus of leaders. So are the views of employees and customers, plus the whole range of stakeholders.

It is no longer just the short term interests of shareholders. The extraordinary new mood of leaders confirms what he has written in his book ‘Dreams and Details’. Top executives must accept that the principles of the long term business plan are dead. Those at the top must adopt a new culture of flexibility and agility.

Hans-Paul Burkner, Chair of Boston Consulting also recognised the change in views. He said current leaders really ‘feel the heat’ and have started to adapt - but they do not know all the solutions.

The remarkable revelation behind closed doors in Davos here is that a need for a new massive momentum has suddenly been agreed at the highest levels, with no dissent.

Waverers or the more cautious have been persuaded.

The challenge is to create a network for intense activity. Time is of the essence.

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