Category: Leadership

Tapping into active hope and deep realism

Tapping into active hope and deep realism

As each new year rolls in, Jayma is known to choose a word to serve as her North Star for the journey ahead. This year, we are both also drawn to a phrase that our colleague and mentor, Bill Sharpe, has shared with us: deep realism and active hope.

Looking out at the start of 2024, it can be easy to slip into the despair of our daily news feeds. Yet beyond the disheartening headlines, there is also evidence of incredible progress — both globally, and within the communities and organizations around us.

At the global level, we’ve seen significant reductions in the past year in child mortality and the number of those living in extreme poverty. We’ve made big leaps towards eradicating diseases like polio, and we’re seeing exponential change in renewables and electric vehicles at rates faster than predicted.

At the regional and local levels, we see inspiring leaders who are innovating courageously to make progress, often under the radar and in the face of great odds. This includes people in the Leaders’ Quest community with whom we are privileged to spend time, learn from and call our friends:

  • In the face of unimaginable loss and trauma, the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is a coalition of over 160 organizations — including tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians — that is working to build cooperation and mutual understanding. ALLMEP’s community of leaders is meeting this moment with deep empathy and the conviction that peace is possible. Experience some of their stories from the field.

  • Akshaya Patra is an organization based in Bangalore that prepares and delivers two million meals to children in 20,000 schools across India every day. The team applies a sense of mission to build the world’s largest school lunch program, showcasing purposeful ambition and innovation at scale to combat food insecurity and malnutrition.

  • Sweden-based Northvolt is a global leader in battery technology that is using its capacity for innovation to transform supply chains and transportation. Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s Chief Environmental Officer, is working on delivering the world’s greenest battery. Her TED Countdown Talk in Detroit last July is an inspiring summary of what’s possible through clean energy, and how we can vastly reduce environmental impact while powering the future.


These stories demonstrate how facing the truth of our circumstances does not negate hope, but fuels it. We highlight these not to detract from the conflict and crises we face collectively, but to remind ourselves that human beings can accomplish extraordinary things when we choose agency over despair. Drawing from the insights of author Joanna Macy, Bill Sharpe defines hope as ‘the belief that in acting from our own sense of human integrity we are creating the possibility of a wider pattern of human renewal around us’.

Our intention for 2024 is to use deep realism and active hope to guide our choices at LQ. We see it as a leadership muscle to build daily – to stay awake to the challenges in the world, while seeking out examples that demonstrate extraordinary change is possible and is happening around us every day.

What’s that smell? (And other questions about the future of work)

What’s that smell? (And other questions about the future of work)

Beth McNamee

It’s estimated that 800,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled in the US alone, and experts say that the gap could rise to 2.1M by 2030. The manufacturing industry is also grappling with its emissions and waste footprint – and the irreversible effects of climate change we are already seeing as a result.

The imperative to change how we make things has never been greater. 

Last week, as part of #tedcountdown I had the privilege of leading a Quest to see firsthand the future of manufacturing in Detroit with LIFT and SiemensIt was an immersive masterclass in change management and leadership at the intersection of people and technology.

Here’s what I learned:

A stronger workforce starts with inclusive skills development

Walking through Detroit’s oldest surviving neighborhood, a juxtaposition of trendy new developments and long abandoned properties, you might be surprised to stumble upon $50 million of leading edge manufacturing research and development equipment. 

In Corktown, Detroit public-private partnership LIFT operates a 100,000 square foot facility where they are shaping new ways to accelerate technology, develop talent and convene collaborators in service of smarter manufacturing. 

Our Quest began with a visit to LIFT’s Learning Lab, a place for local high school students to gain immersive training and certification in high-demand manufacturing skills, such as robotics. They let us try out virtual welding (much harder than it looks!) — which uses VR to teach and practice welding skills and is one of many tracks offered to gain career credentials. LIFT also hosts Operation Next, a program supporting military personnel to transition into manufacturing careers. One veteran spoke candidly with us about the challenge of building a civilian career after 20 years of active duty, emphasizing the importance not just of building skills but also being given chances to apply them. 

LIFT creates career opportunities but it’s up to industry to give chances to a new, highly trained workforce by expanding hiring practices. 

The Industrial Metaverse and Digital Twins are the tech you didn’t know you need to know about

We then moved to a vast production floor to see how Siemens, a leading global technology company focused on industry, infrastructure, transport, and healthcare and one of LIFT’s industry partners, is applying emerging technologies to develop and commercialize products more sustainably, and faster. Drew Whitney showed us how the Industrial Metaverse (or IMV for those in the know) and Digital Twins allow engineers to build and test in the virtual world before any production begins. Imagine testing a car in all kinds of weather conditions but without…the car. They do that here. The reduction of waste — in materials, byproducts, and time — opens up a world of possibilities for the entire manufacturing sector, and offers a path to drastically reduce emissions from manufacturing.  

The Industrial Metaverse is critical to building a more sustainable future – and we need more passionate people who know how to work in it.

Software and robots are not replacing us (just one example)

While technology can do more and more (including teaching itself), people are driving tech’s use. Drew and his team, including mentors who have decades of experience in industry, showed us how expertise is being passed down not just through word of mouth but meticulous documentation in tech systems, supplemented by AI which updates learnings at scale. 

Highly skilled work requires mentorship and apprenticeship. New tech is enhancing, not replacing these activities. 

This work takes a whole lotta love

We rounded out the day in conversation with Christine Longroy, Senior Director of Ecosystem at LIFT and Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA… which brings me back to my title: what’s that smell? 

The smell of the production floor is almost an absence of smell — fresh, not sterile, and too subtle to be familiar. Only half jokingly, a participant asked what gave the floor its ‘I can’t put my finger on it’ scent. Likely, it’s simply the result of a clean space and clean production processes. But some of our participants observed the beauty of the production floor, describing what they saw as processes that mimicked nature — so maybe new American industry looks and smells a lot more like the natural world than we’d expect. 

Of course, the questions for Christine and Barbara went much deeper. We discussed the complexity of managing a vast global value chain, the importance of glocalization and frameworks for decision making, and how investment in communities accelerates innovation. Knowing stakeholders where they live and work, knowing what you value as an organization, and learning from experience are essential. 

We need more leaders like Barbara and Christine, who despite the challenges of the world see possibility and hope, who believe in people and innovation, who create opportunities and inspire others to do the same. 

(On that note, I highly recommend listening to Barbara’s podcast, The Optimistic Outlook.)

Conclusion

On the surface, this Quest visit was about infrastructure and technology – but it ended up really being about love, abundance, and optimism. A fun example: At one point, Cathe Reams, Siemens’ Communications Director, generously shared the shoes off her feet so a participant could explore the production floor (talk about walking the talk!).

To anyone serious about change, I leave you with this: You have to see it to understand it. You have to meet the people driving it and ask good questions to adapt yourself. And you have to put people in the center to solve the challenges we collectively face — in industry and beyond.

I’m grateful to LIFT and Siemens for inviting us to step into their world, the future. I hope their work inspires you too. 

Serious about systems change

Serious about systems change

Anne Wade

When I invite friends and colleagues to join me at the TED Countdown summit, I always tell them the same thing: That I find it an invaluable use of time because the three days are highly energizing and I leave optimistic that we actually have the tools to decarbonize our economies. 

This year was no exception. More than 800 people from across the globe came to talk about challenges that are alarmingly real, but where the palpable energy around solutions is also real.

What struck me the most this year was the seriousness with which people are trying to move outside their own individual lanes to understand how entire systems fit together. As we all know, one of gordion knots of tackling climate change is the need to impact all parts of systems simultaneously. My specific lane or lens in this knot is investment and climate finance.

This year at the summit we offered three breakthrough sessions— small group interactive dialogues — on finance. And to our surprise – the finance sessions filled first. A session called “Climate Finance 101” was so in demand that we ran it again. The demand came not from finance folks — but from everyone else: business leaders, NGOs, climate scientists.

Some folks confessed to finding climate finance like a black box — something they know is important but where the jargon and acronyms make it hard to access.

So we talked about finance as tools: What net zero means for the finance sector; how carbon markets fit in; what green bonds are and whether they work. What exactly is transition finance?

We talked about the successes being seen — the number of clean industries that are now profitable and at scale where money is moving easily. And we talked about the challenges — the harder to abate sectors, and in particular the urgent need to shift financing to the global south — why that’s hard and why we must do better.

That so many people showed up looking for better understanding on how money fits into the need for systems change says to me that we are all trying hard to understand parts of the system that aren’t our lane. The we increasingly collectively get that that all sorts of levers need to be pulled at the same time — and that as a part of each of our individual strategy to effect change, we all need to get more comfortable with more levers. That we need to demystify any black boxes out there so business leaders, policy makers, civil society leaders can draw on as many tools as possible as they try and drive us towards a less carbon intensive future.

So, as I promised the folks I invited, the summit was hugely energizing. And I personally left with evidence that we are getting better and better at amassing the technologies and tools that we need — and that we are looking systemically to pull multiple levers at the same time which is key. The tougher, lingering question is whether we collectively will take the tough decisions and use those tools now.

Why we should spend less time with people like us

Why we should spend less time with people like us

It’s often said that we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. In our globally connected world, there is almost endless scope for choosing whom we want to shape our worldview. 

Who is shaping yours?

I’ve found that since the pandemic, the circle of people that I spend time with has shrunk. I expect this may be true for you too. Despite the globalisation of work and the benefits of technology, our bubbles have actually become smaller.

In fact, the five people we spend our time with might be more homogenous than ever! This has consequences because diverse thinking is vital to working through the global challenges that CEOs are facing. By limiting perspectives to those very like our own, I believe that we lose out on some of the most special and unique parts of being human. Conversely, by expanding our worldview, we can become more rounded and more successful in all that we do.

The magic of Questing

What if you could expand your worldview in a safe space with time and guidance to make the most of it? If you could be immersed with a diverse group of people, what unexpected perspectives this might bring to your business and your own leadership?

Imagine spending time in an incredible place with fellow CEOs, plus artists, activists, indigenous people, policy makers, environmentalists, refugees, ex-offenders, and community leaders. This is the magic of a Quest (my colleague, Kim Coupounas, shares additional insights on what Quests can achieve).

What is a Quest?

When I joined Leaders’ Quest 15 years ago, I had little awareness of what Quests could achieve. I knew that Leaders’ Quest ran what sounded like leadership development events, some of them taking place in emerging markets. That sounded pretty interesting to me and so I took up the role without many expectations. It was only after I became immersed in the LQ approach that I witnessed the fundamental ‘rewiring’ that participants experience when they have the opportunity to touch and feel the world in a new and interesting way.

Fifteen years later I still get great joy from witnessing the change and catalyzing these moments. It is incredibly rewarding to be part of a project that offers up the conditions for change and enables people to tap into perspectives that they would simply not get in any other area of their life.

Changing the status quo

There is no doubt that we are hugely influenced by those with whom we spend most time. This feels comfortable for us as our natural confirmation biases are rewarded when we hear or see things that validate what we already suspected to be true. But in many spheres of our lives, including at work, our cognitive biases are keeping us trapped in the status quo and, since we are attracted unconsciously to people who think like us, we lose out on the power of diverse thinking.

Our perspective can be expanded in many ways whether it be through hobbies, travel, volunteering or being intentional about who we spend time with in our organisations. But for senior business leaders who have very little free time, these opportunities can feel few and far between. This is why Questing is such a rich experience. 

We know that many senior leaders no longer commute. They no longer travel as much. They no longer come across the diversity of people that they did in the past. So, cocooned in an ever-shrinking bubble of CEO forums, business travel and time with like-minded peers, the perspective of these global leaders risks being not very global at all.

If we can break this habit, we have the opportunity to live a much richer life. When we take intentional steps towards more diversity in our lives, we broaden our horizons, find common ground and create meaningful interactions. A worldview that is informed by diverse perspectives, such as those we enable during our Quests, brings personal enrichment, better communication skills, more capacity for empathy, and career advantages. In a world where we seem to be ever more global, yet ever more isolated, I believe taking time out to expand our worldview is invaluable. 

We need wise leaders for the 1.5-degree world

We need wise leaders for the 1.5-degree world

Sayo Ayodele

How did you react when you heard the news from the IPCC that scientists now believe with 98% certainty that we will cross the 1.5-degree threshold sometime between now and 2027?

Speaking for myself, I felt two conflicting emotions:

Firstly, I tried to switch off from the overwhelming news. Secondly, I felt numbness. nothingness. I’ve seen so much of it that it feels normalized, even though it’s anything but normal.  

As I paused and really paid attention to this piece of news, tears began to stream down my face. Tears for the injustice that those who will suffer the impact of this have contributed least to the cause.  

Citizens of Earth

I’m a proud ‘third culture’ kid. Born in Japan, Nigerian by origin, and with very deep roots. I maintain a close relationship with my mom who is from a village in South Western Nigeria called Igbojaye. In her village some of the wealthier homes just got running water – sporadically — about five years ago. So, most people still walk several miles to the river to get water for daily use.

I was fortunate to move to the US on a scholarship for high school and then to the UK on a Master’s degree scholarship. I’m now a proud Londoner and mother to a two-year old Londoner who only knows life in London so far.

I share this to articulate that I am a ‘citizen of nowhere’, and proudly so, because I consider myself a citizen of Earth. Earth is my home because I’m fortunate to have had several places on Earth I’ve called home — some in the global north, some in the global South. And I hope — along with my son — to have many more.

As a citizen of Earth, I felt a deep sadness when the UN declared the damning news that the 1.5-degree world is coming and even a bit fearful. I have friends who have chosen not to have children because of the climate emergency. I’m confident in the motherhood path I chose but I do sometimes look at my son and wonder what the world will be like when he’s my age?

And because of that question, the much bigger feeling I have — stronger than my sadness and fear — is one of urgency. Of a fire in my belly to accelerate the transformation that I believe is already underway to change the global economy into a vehicle that delivers positive outcomes for people and nature.

What does a 1.5-degree world mean for you? For your home, your country, this world you are a part of?

I will be a Hummingbird

When I think about what is required of me and of each of us working on this challenge, I’m reminded of the story of the hummingbird; told so beautifully by Wangari Maathai — the first African woman Nobel laureate.

She and several women put their lives on the line to protect and restore Kenya’s nature. Those of you who have been to Nairobi know that there’s a beautiful urban forest called Karura right in the heart of the city. This forest exists thanks of the efforts of Wangari who suffered police brutality and death threats to protect it.

Asked how she found the courage to persevere, she tells the parable of a hummingbird in an African forest

There is a huge forest fire, threatening to clear the whole forest. All the animals are standing by in fear and shock, and watching the forest burn. The elephant with its huge trunk. The cheetah with its fast legs. All standing by, panicked, watching. Except one little hummingbird.

The hummingbird is flying back and forth, from a local stream where it collects water in its tiny beak to the roaring fire where it drops the water. Back and forth, back and forth over and over — seemingly making no difference at all.

A lion asked the hummingbird, “what are you doing? You’re only a tiny hummingbird. What difference can you make?” And the hummingbird replied “I am simply doing the best I can”.  

Do the best you can

Wangari says “I chose to be the hummingbird. We must all be the hummingbird. We cannot just stand by, no matter how overwhelming the challenge”. I agree, one hummingbird does not make a movement, but if we all — those with small beaks, and huge trunks — do what we can, I have NO doubt in my mind that change is not only possible but is already coming.

Why am I so convinced about that? Because we as human beings have made similarly difficult large-scale changes to the way we live in the past.

If you think our task is impossible, remember that 200 years ago, slavery was the basis of our global economy.

If you think our task is impossible, remember there was a time, merely 100 years ago, when I, a woman, would not have had the right to vote in most countries around the world.

Changing those systems seemed impossible. It was too lucrative, too baked into our economic models and too embedded in societal norms. It seemed unimaginable. And yet, here we are. And what seems unimaginable now is that these systems ever existed.

The second reason I believe change is coming is because I can see examples of the positive future that’s coming, everywhere. Let me give you some examples:

  • For the first time ever in the UK, in Q1 of this year, wind turbines generated more electricity than gas. 42% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable energy and 33% came from fossil fuels.
  • Amazonian deforestation is down 61% year on year.
  • Kenya now generates 93% of its electricity from renewable sources, and is building the potential to power the world with clean energy, which could provide jobs and sustainable development for millions of people.

These statistics, plus economic signals, political signals and polls that represent what people want, are pointing in the right direction. Change is happening. The question is how we can make it happen faster? How can we make it happen fairly? And what is our role as leaders in accelerating that shift?

We need wise leaders

I’m a Partner at Leaders’ Quest, an organization dedicated to growing wise leaders for a regenerative future. I use the word ‘wise’ very deliberately.

As human beings, we have grown in what we can call our ‘cleverness’ at a remarkable rate. That is – our technical abilities. We’ve put a man on the moon. We’re on the cusp of the next wave of artificial intelligence that will transform the way we live.

But as our cleverness has increased exponentially, you can see a similar exponential increase in many of the world’s problems. Global temperature rise. Loneliness. Obesity. Deforestation. Inequality.

So, while we have grown in cleverness exponentially, our growth in what we might call “wisdom” has been much slower. It has flatlined.

What I have learned in 10 years of working on systemic global challenges, is that technical solutions are only part of the picture. As leaders, part of our task is to grow our ability to see this bigger picture. To develop our wisdom alongside our cleverness.

This starts with deepening our self-awareness and understanding how to see the world from multiple points of view. Understanding that our mindset really shapes how we see the world, can shape how we then choose to act as a result.

A 1.5-degree world is coming. We are failing our fellow human beings on that front. But it’s not too late to create the movement of clever and wise leaders that can change the trajectory of our future. And that movement begins with each and every one of us.

What happens on a Quest?

What happens on a Quest?

Kim Coupounas

“You’ve changed my life,” he said.

He then proceeded to share the kind of radical shifts that happened in the months and years following his experience on a “Quest” led by Leaders’ Quest.

I’ve heard this same personal transformation story at least 10 times from LQ alumni these past six months since joining this company, each story with its own twists, personal epiphanies, and subsequent life changes.

Some individuals found the courage to radically change the direction of their companies.

Some quit their jobs and changed careers.

Some shifted their gaze and work to figure out how they can make a difference in the world.

I’ve heard it from global multinational CEOs, climate change agents, everyday citizens, nomadic adventurers, and everything in between.

When I decided to join LQ in 2022, I’d been drawn into LQ’s orbit by the brilliance they lent to the co-founding of TED Countdown. I got to know LQ a bit and its luminous founder, Lindsay Levin, leading up to TED Countdown’s launch in 2020. The genius, passion, and commitment of the people behind that launch – including both TED and LQ – were evident and stunning in every aspect of the event. 

And I committed to finding ways to collaborate with them again in the future. Little did I know that I’d be joining LQ full-time as a Partner in 2022! 

When I joined LQ, my knowledge of their work was colored primarily by TED Countdown. I didn’t really have a sense yet of what LQ is most known for: its signature Quests.

What is a Quest?

Quests are powerful learning experiences designed to inspire and equip leaders to tackle complex global challenges by taking them into unfamiliar environments to be immersed in the forces shaping our future.

I had my first real taste of Questing when I led visits for a group of rising Partners at a major global consultancy in London this past November.

During one Quest, we visited Shashi Verma, the Chief Technology Officer at Transport for London who was also the creative genius behind the Oyster card, the largest smartcard-based ticketing system in the world.

The conversation between Shashi and the Partner was dynamic and inspiring. The Partners were wide-eyed and fully immersed in the experience. It was a delight to witness and be a part of. My love affair with LQ-style Questing was born that day.

A Quest can change your life via:

Active engagement: It emphasizes hands-on experiences and active participation, allowing you to engage directly with the learning material, enhancing retention and understanding as compared to passive learning methods.

Real-world application: It provides you with opportunities to apply both theoretical concepts and practical skills learned in real-world contexts, such as leadership, decision-making, adaptability, and problem-solving, which are transferable to different settings, including educational, professional, and personal contexts.

Emotional connection: It often involves emotionally engaging activities that elicit strong responses. By experiencing a wide range of emotions, you are more likely to remember the associated lessons and develop a personal connection to the learning process.

Reflection & sense-making: It emphasizes reflection where you analyze your experiences, draw insights, and connect them to broader concepts or principles. This reflection process deepens understanding and helps you extract valuable lessons from their experiences.

Collaboration & communication: It involves group activities that require collaboration and effective communication among participants. These experiences promote teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, which are valuable in many aspects of your life.

Personal growth: They challenge you to step out of your comfort zone, confront fears, and push your limits, building self-confidence and developing resilience as you realize your capabilities and learn to overcome obstacles.

Long-lasting impact: It creates memorable and transformative experiences. The immersive nature of these programs can have a lasting impact on your attitudes, behaviors, and perspectives, leading to continued growth and development even after the program ends. When experienced at an organizational level involving multiple participants, it can drive culture change at scale. Many of the LQ “alumni” I’ve met these past months talk about their transformational LQ Quest experience as if it happened yesterday.

Who is Leaders’ Quest?

Leaders' Quest team photo

I’ve never shied away from ambitious, world-changing organizations, and Leaders’ Quest is no exception. LQ’s mission is “to develop wise leaders to build a regenerative future.”

One of the key ways LQ achieves this is through Quests. They’ve been leading Quests for over 20 years, delivering 500+ transformative learning programs around the world. And they’re not just good at it, they’re GREAT at it, by which I mean they deliver a world-class level of facilitative genius applied to humans and organizations in ways I’ve never seen before.

This is no ordinary c-suite advisory and consulting firm. Given my short time at LQ, I can brazenly say and with zero concern about it coming across as a sales pitch:

Leaders’ Quest changes lives. And it’s changing the future.

As a result of LQ’s genius, we’re been hired by some of the smartest, most successful and purposeful leaders and companies in the world, including Google, PwC, Bain & Co., Lord Abbett, PepsiCo, S&P, Daimler, Vodafone, CEMEX, HSBC, P&G, and many others.

Coming full circle in my career

I’ve recently realized how my professional life has come “full circle” in joining LQ. I spent several pivotal years early in my career in senior leadership roles at organizations that drove personal growth through experiential learning.

I was drawn to those roles because my most powerful personal learnings in life have come through real-world experiences – especially travel and outdoor adventure. I believed so much in this style of learning that I even became an Outward Bound instructor in my spare time because I wanted others to have the kind of life-changing wilderness journeys I’d had the privilege of experiencing.

Now and then, I tell my husband that I’ve got “itchy feet,” and he knows he’d better start packing for another crazy boundary-pushing expedition into the unknown. Every odyssey deepens me, changes me in fundamental ways. To realize that I’m once again having the privilege of supporting individuals on similar transformational journeys is almost too good to be true.

Every day I discover more and more powerful ways that this small-but-mighty consultancy is forging leaders who have the courage and perspective to tackle today’s most complex global social and environmental challenges.

Every leader I know deserves an LQ Quest experience.

To learn more about why I believe that every company I know NEEDS this experience for their team to help them meet the challenges of our day, take a look at a more in-depth piece on Medium here

Re-skilling for the AI world of work

Re-skilling for the AI world of work

Owen Valentine Pringle

With Covid fast diminishing in the rear-view mirror, deciphering what ‘new normal’ habits are still standing is becoming a popular pastime. Although not immediately apparent, many of the changes have their roots in technology, the secondary and tertiary impacts of which have forced us to find new vocabularies.

  • Firstly, there are attitudinal shifts, giving rise to the ‘Great Resignation’, its humbler cousin ‘Quiet Quitting’ and its 2023 reboot ‘Conscious Quitting’.

  • Then there are behavioral shifts, such as ‘Hybrid Working’, which mean complete strangers can get away with calling me a ‘TWaT’ because I choose to come to the office only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

  • Next are organizational shifts, which can be explained by increasing numbers of part-time workers and indie contractors, as well as the geographical redistribution of workers away from cities.

  • The final piece in this jigsaw will be widespread vocational shifts as a result of technology automating or augmenting existing roles, establishing new ones, or disestablishing those that are harder to fight for in light of all of the above.


AI isn’t playing by the rules

The quiet revolution going on in AI suddenly turned into a raucous house party when ChatGPT went from 0-100 million users in two months, making it the fastest-growing consumer app in history.

By virtue, the general public was finally given a taste of the future which AI evangelists and Cassandras had both been prophesizing. Its success has opened the floodgates of our curiosity about new AI products and services, only marginally surpassed by the deluge of articles and videos asking ‘will ChatGPT take my job.’ And if it doesn’t, maybe Google’s Bard or Baidu’s ERNIE will.

“2023 will be remembered as the year we shifted uncomfortably in our seats”

New technologies come thick and fast, though rarely do they register a blip on the historical seismograph. This time is different. To most of us, 2023 will be remembered as the year we shifted uncomfortably in our seats.

Until fairly recently, the received wisdom was that if tech was coming for our jobs, it would ‘find and replace’ those whose roles were largely repeatable, with a finite set of outcomes. Actuaries, not actors. Articulated truck drivers not artists.

No alt text provided for this image
Hans Moravec’s illustration of the rising tide of the AI capacity

The ‘landscape of human competence’ diagram created to illustrate Hans Moravec’s theory proved as much – creativity would be the last skill standing.

The trouble is, advancements in AI are refusing to play by the rules. Technologies like DALL-E have artists in their sights, while Flawless’ TrueSync are coming for voice actors. From retail to rocket science, AI keeps breaking our previously agreed understanding of which jobs it’s qualified for and which it ain’t.

The truth is, it’s impossible to know how technology’s encroachment on labor will occur, given we’re only at basecamp. Even amongst AI experts, the jury is out as to whether these technologies will augment our work in the short to medium term or completely supplant it further out. But if, as the old saying goes, the future is already here, just unevenly distributed, it’ll be too late by the time we realize the water has started to boil around us.

The imperative to re-skill

For several years, Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer has seen a growing belief in both individuals and institutions in the business arena, in inverse proportion to that of government, media and NGOs.

For the first time, this year’s trust index revealed that business remains the only trusted institution; at 62%, more people are ready to believe than disbelieve global corporations. The same study revealed that business is now the sole institution that respondents perceive as both ethical and competent following a three-year rise in its ethics score. This may surprise many people, but the fundamental truth at the heart of this matter puts the onus on organizations to rise to the challenge.

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“Organizations should be doing more to educate their staff well before their skills become obsolete”

The simultaneous rise in vocational uncertainty and corporate trust presents businesses with a responsibility. If the skills of today’s workers are misaligned with tomorrow’s labor requirements, then organizations should be doing more to educate their staff well before those skills become obsolete or before the policy wonks make it law.

This needs to go beyond simply encouraging discourse and comprehension about the inevitable and seismic shift we’ll see in the world of work over the next decade. BigCorp will need to dedicate significant resources towards the retraining of their people in order to aid a ‘just transition’ to a more automated future, and to prevent a global pandemic of wealth inequality. Don’t take my word for it. Nearly half of the Edelman respondents think so, too.

A wholesale re-education of this scale needs to connect seamlessly with pedagogy, and not simply at the higher education level but from pre-school through to retirement.

New technologies will change the world of work irrevocably, but the outcome won’t be purely vocationally destructive. Alongside AI, Blockchain and the Metaverse – both merely taking a rest in the trough of disillusionment before figuring out what they’re actually good at – will create swathes of new jobs that have never existed before.

“The future of human work will rely more than ever before on what truly differentiates us from technology”

The future of human work will rely more than ever before on what truly differentiates us from technology; our ability to connect with each other on an intimate level. Data, intelligence and analysis are nothing without the presentation layer of purpose, empathy and meaning, which we humans excel at.

And it is within this vein that the imperative to re-skilling should not simply be a reaction to the technologization of work, but a concerted effort to re-channel labor towards what will soon become the single largest industry sector humankind has ever known: saving the planet from ourselves.

A message from the co-CEOs of Leaders’ Quest

A message from the co-CEOs of Leaders’ Quest

Dear friends,

As we start our roles as the new co-CEOs of Leaders’ Quest, we’ve been reflecting on the extraordinary leadership that created this unique organization and what it means for our path ahead.

It began 22 years ago. Lindsay Levin, with a small team that punched above its weight, launched the first Quests in Silicon Valley and India. The idea was to immerse leaders in the forces shaping the 2000s, inspiring them to lead their organizations differently.

Over time, spurred by the desire to grow impact, they sought to capture the ‘LQ magic’ that infused Quests in new ways to help companies build a better future.

They defined three values that remain just as relevant in our work as we help leaders navigate the turbulent 2020s:

1. Clear-eyed optimism

Recognizing life’s tough realities whilst seeing possibility everywhere. Racquel Moses, CEO of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, has a bold vision for the Caribbean to become the world’s first net-zero and climate resilient region. She leads a coalition of 28 countries to generate public-private collaborations. An example? A regional rollout using climate resilient agriculture to solve food security in five island nations.

2. Patient ambition

Big, urgent challenges need the space for bold change to emerge. For us, CORO India embodies this value in the work they’ve done over the last 20+ years to support grassroots leaders to tackle endemic issues in marginalized communities. CORO dreams of creating a society based on equality and justice. They work towards this by equipping each leader to deliver local solutions, while collaborating on state-wide campaigns which reach millions of people.

3. Relentless generosity

We strive to be loving to ourselves and others, even when it’s hard. The role model of this value for many of us is our founder Lindsay, who has just stepped down as CEO yet continues to provide her wisdom as a deeply-valued Board member. Those who know her will recognize this is how she shows up, every day.

As we embark on leading Leaders’ Quest, we want to take this moment to honor these roots: The founding team at LQ that enables us all to do this work today; our clients, who trust us to guide them on their own journeys; and the worldwide community of leaders and innovators who welcome us into their worlds to share learning and inspire new ways forward.

We invite you to look at your own values to see who’s shaped them, and how they influence the choices you’re making for the future. We’d love to hear your reflections.

With warm wishes,

Jayma Pau & Melanie Jamieson

A personal message from LQ Founder and CEO Lindsay Levin

A personal message from LQ Founder and CEO Lindsay Levin

Lindsay Levin

Dear friends,

I hope you and your families are well. 

I’m writing with significant news. 

Strategic alliance between Leaders’ Quest and TED

For the last three years LQ has had a very successful climate partnership with TED through Countdown. It’s been exceptionally impactful, reaching tens of millions of people with solutions to the climate crisis and building cross-sector collaboration to solve tough dilemmas. 

We’re thrilled now to build on this partnership and deepen our shared work through a Strategic Alliance between LQ and TED. We have complementary skills, great alignment in terms of vision, values and purpose – and we see powerful opportunities to do more together in the future. 

A change in my role

As part of this, I will be shifting my role at the end of the year. After 21 years at the helm, I will stand down as CEO of Leaders’ Quest, though I will continue as an advisor, board member and, above all, friend.

I will take up a new role at TED, commencing January 3, as Head of Impact and Partnerships. TED is an amazing platform and this is a wonderful mandate to partner with businesses and philanthropists to address big global themes and to bring an ‘impact-first’ mentality to TED’s work with all partners. 

Leadership at LQ

After consultation with the Partners, our Board and external advisors, I am thrilled to share the news that Jayma Pau and Melanie Jamieson have accepted roles as co-CEOs of Leaders’ Quest, commencing January 3.

Jayma has been with us for 15 years. She joined as a Program Coordinator, spent two years in Mumbai setting up our India office, time seconded in NY, and became one of three Managing Partners in 2016. She knows the team incredibly well, is a brilliant, intuitive creator of programs, and is highly trusted by clients and hosts. 

Melanie joined us in 2010 as Communication Manager. She became a Partner in 2014 and a Managing Partner at the start of this year. Most recently she has led our relationship with the Climate Champions for COP 26 and 27 and earned huge respect for the leadership, collaboration and optimism she has brought to the climate world. 

Together, they are excited to lead LQ into a wonderful next chapter and look forward to reconnecting with you.

LQ has been at the heart of my life for more than two decades. I am deeply grateful and beyond proud of what we’ve achieved together. Extraordinary friends and colleagues from all corners have shaped how I see the world and — I hope — made me a better person along the way. I look forward to continuing to support the work, and to building new opportunities together with many of you. This is not a goodbye, but rather the next step of LQ’s (and my own) journey.  

Warm regards,

Lindsay

Leaders’ Quest taps Regenerative business leader Kim Coupounas to join as core Partner

Leaders’ Quest taps Regenerative business leader Kim Coupounas to join as core Partner

Leaders’ Quest, a global social enterprise known for its pioneering collaborations such as TED Countdown and Count Us In, has appointed Kim Coupounas to its senior leadership team. During its 21 years of existence, LQ has built an engaged global network of exceptional people committed to cultivating wise leaders for a regenerative future for humanity and the planet. 

A seasoned business leader in both the private and public sector, Coupounas brings deep knowledge and understanding of global impact work and systems change and a profound commitment to mobilizing the power of business to shape a regenerative future.

“LQ’s work to cultivate courageous business leaders and foster game-changing collaborations to address today’s complex global social and environmental challenges is needed like no other time in our history,” said Coupounas. “LQ’s work is centered in both reality and optimism, and it is literally changing the course of the future. What an honor to be able to join this incredible global team to help forward their vision and work while leveraging my own deep passion for amplifying the power of business to advance an equitable and regenerative future for humanity and our planet. ”

“We’re absolutely thrilled that Kim has chosen to bring her exceptional experience, wisdom, passion, and reach to our global team,” said Lindsay Levin, Founder and CEO of Leaders’ Quest. “Kim is a powerhouse leader who will bring courageous, out of the box systems-thinking mixed with an entrepreneur’s spirit to our work of growing wise leaders for a regenerative future and tackling big global challenges. Kim is a highly respected leader within the global sustainable business community, and we can’t wait to see the magic she weaves as part of the Leaders’ Quest team.”

Coupounas is joining Leaders’ Quest at a moment of tremendous growth and opportunity for the organization. In her role on the senior leadership team, Coupounas will be a highly visible LQ Partner focused on furthering the organization’s game-changing collaborations and partnerships, design and delivery of LQ’s trademark leadership programs, client engagement, public advocacy, organizational leadership, and business development. 

Prior to Leaders’ Quest, Coupounas was an instrumental leader in the growth of the B Corp movement. She served as a senior executive at B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corps, for over 8 years and focused on advancing stakeholder-based capitalism while activating business leaders and companies to operationalize sustainable and regenerative principles and to use their collective power and voice for systemic change. 

At B Lab, she co-led the largest mobilization of companies in history committed to Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Prior to B Lab, Coupounas served as co-founder and CEO of GoLite, a purpose-driven outdoor products brand that was one of the earliest Certified B Corps. Coupounas is also past Board Chair of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), the trade association representing the $887 billion+ active outdoor recreation industry, during which she helped launch and lead that industry’s groundbreaking sustainability efforts. 

Coupounas earned MBA and MPA degrees from Harvard University, an AB with honors in Philosophy from Princeton, and attended Oxford University as a Rotary Foundation Graduate Scholar. She has received many awards, including being named Conscious Company’s “2020 World-Changing Woman.”