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A Human Approach to Leadership

On Monday 23rd of November, Simone Roche MBE was joined by Jane Woods, (Director, Head of Global Securities Operations and Head of Portfolio Services at BNY Mellon), Louise Beardmore (Customer Services and People Director at United Utilities) and Sharon Amesu (Director SA Consulting and former Branch Chair at The Institute of Directors) for Northern Power Women’s ‘A Human Approach to Leadership’ webinar, supported by BNY Mellon. Together, they discussed how the events of 2020 have underlined the need for a more human approach to leadership.

One innovation of leadership was provided by Sharon Amesu, who put forward the metaphor of “leaders being cartographers”, conquering the terra incognita that life often throws our way. Particularly this year, when so much has suddenly become unfamiliar and uncharted, it has been the role of our leaders to keep us moving forward, to scope out the lay of the land, and report back to those who follow. Whilst moving forward, however, Amesu also highlighted the importance of making sure that the doors you came through are left open for those that come after you. Talking about her motivation behind being a mentor, “someone left the legacy for me, and therefore I must leave the legacy for others”.

Ensuring that no team member is left behind was also a branch of leadership touched upon by Jane Woods, as she spoke about the supportive environment that BNY Mellon provides for their employees. As each panelist shared strategies for motivating their workforces, Woods summarised the sentiment perfectly: “keeping your team going is an art. It’s not a science, it’s an art”. As Woods suggests, it is vital that we remove the objective, concrete definition of leadership that we have obeyed for so long, and make room for a newer, more subjective and creative style of leading.

Beardmore echoed the need for a more personal style of leadership, and that how you lead is intrinsically linked to how you act and interact with others, rather than your status. “Leadership is not about a title, a grade, a position. It’s actually about action and example”, she said. She also urged that we make the most of the complete upheaval that coronavirus has had on our lives, to use it as an opportunity to reset, and to reflect on how we have triumphed and survived over the last few months of unprecedented change.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on everyday life has highlighted the importance of more compassionate and empathetic styles of leadership; styles which have traditionally been overlooked and categorised as the weaker way to approach problem solving. In countries who can boast exemplary approaches to tackling the pandemic, the leaders of these countries are unified by an empathetic and caring attitude. Earlier this year, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg directly addressed the children of Norway in a kids-only press conference, answering their questions and trying to ease fears about the virus. With more empathetic world leaders successfully guiding their citizens through the terra incognita of coronavirus, conversations such as the one hosted on this panel are more important than ever.

To conclude the webinar, the three panelists were asked to share their leadership superpowers. Resilience, passion, hope, and vision were all qualities listed by the three industry leaders. The one thing that underpins all these characteristics? Being human. Through their dissection of leadership as a concept, and by sharing their experiences of leading through a lockdown, these panellists have given us the components for us to echo in our working lives, and take with us into the leadership of tomorrow.

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