Choose your heroes wisely
Journey, Edition 62
Choose your heroes wisely
‘They’ tell you - you should never try to meet your heroes, lest they be found to have feet of clay. ‘They’ would be wrong! Well, they would be wrong if your lifelong hero was Dame Dr. Jane Goodall.
Last week, I did warn you all about just how excited I was to finally meet Jane. Well, she was every bit as warm, gentle, intelligent, and generous of spirit as I’d imagined. We found common ground with our shared love of whiskey (to help our speaking voices of course). But what took me by surprise was her biting wit and humour.
Be warned, Jane Goodall is a woman even male chimps in heat never dared to mess with. I’d say that’s warning enough for Russian President Vladimir Putin whom she’s not at all impressed with. As we chatted away, she shared with me a cartoon she had commissioned. It leaves you in no doubt whatsoever, how Jane feels about the war in Ukraine, or Putin holding the world’s poorest hostage to hunger and starvation.
Whilst the world is now teetering on the very brink, and there is looming uncertainty about the road ahead — Jane’s message to us is quite clear. Stay the course — for nature, the planet and our children’s future. Don’t take your eye off all that we must do to address climate change - even if the drumbeats of war and economic problems get louder. In all the decades she has inspired us to do better, she’s seen crisis after crisis come and go. But one thing stays constant — The planet. And it has no time for our human foibles.
I’m sharing with you a few of the gems Jane left me with, which hopefully can help define your leadership through these dark and dangerous times:
“Every one of us has a choice every day what impact we will have on the globe and the environment. It’s a choice.”
“Change the behaviour of corporations... Corporations are made of people; they care about the future of their children. People are often changed by the needs of their children.”
“Everything we eat, wear and every breath we take, comes from the natural world. If the environment collapses, it all stops.”
“If we lose hope and become apathetic, we're doomed.”
“In your heart, each one of you know what you must do to save the planet.”
“Do what you think is right if you care about your children.”
Jane insists the power of storytelling hasn’t changed in all the decades she has been a voice for the voiceless. Using that power wisely she says, can still change the world. Jane’s advice? Speaking from the heart to those who may have differing views, always works better than shouting at them.
“To speak to the heads and hearts of people, firstly you need to speak to people with a heart.”
Her advice speaks as much to those of us in positions of power, or those of us who want to make a difference. And it has. We talked about her influence on my life for example — from my passion for the planet and its creatures, to my belief in the power of storytelling. It came down to the influence of my journalist grandfather, and a petite English woman who reached the heart and soul of a little girl, growing up in a developing country. This, at a time before the internet, with limited access to information beyond what Indian state media thought valuable. (Yes, I’m taking ownership of just how old I really am!).
If a little girl in 1980s India could shape her entire life on the stories and words of a woman she’d meet almost 40 years later, imagine the power you wield to shape an entire generation to come! Use it wisely and use it well.
The highlight of the week? The magical moment I was awarded a title by Jane, that in my eyes is better than an MBE or an OBE from the Queen!
My official title is now FOJ (Friend of Jane)!
This is going to be a hard week to top!
Have You Met?
In addition to Jane, I had the pleasure of learning from and exchanging ideas with some other fabulous women this week. In case you haven’t met them, I thought I’d introduce you to:
Bronwen is the incoming director and Chief Executive of The Royal Institute of International Affairs better known as Chatham House (yes, the same place that made the phrase “Chatham House Rules” integral to having honest and open dialogues.
She is currently the director of the Institute for Government, an independent think tank, which works to promote better government by focusing on how it is led, how decisions are made and how it is scrutinised.
If you’re familiar with Bronwen’s name and aren’t in the policy circles, it is probably from her stellar work as editor and CEO of Prospect, a monthly current affairs magazine. Prior to running Prospect, she was chief foreign commentator, foreign editor and US editor of The Times, supervising its award-winning coverage of September 11 2001. Before The Times gig, Bronwen was at the Financial Times, where she ran award-winning investigations and wrote economics editorials.
June is the outgoing Director of Creative Diversity at the BBC. In her time there she has been responsible for improving the BBC’s on-air talent portrayal and commissioning, developing strategies to support both on-air and production talent representation and portrayal across the BBC and its partners.
June is a leading campaigner on a wide range of diversity and inclusion issues. She is a passionate advocate for change in the workplace and a champion for greater representation throughout the media. She has written two books on diversity issues - Diversify (2017) and The Power of Women (2018) - and co-founded the Women - Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) Alliance in 2010.
In a post BBC life, expect June to contribute her expertise on real inclusion to corporate boards around the world.
If you’re having any issues at all with hiring the right talent - Agnes is the person to call! She knows the global talent market inside and out, and can tell you where you are failing, what your strategy needs to be and will probably get you the people who will build your business into the success you want it to be. PS: She will tell you to redefine how you view the CHRO role. HR isn’t what it used to be!
Agnes co-leads Russell Reynolds’ Core & Growth Technology practice globally and the Consumer Digital & Media practice in Europe. She focuses on board and senior management appointments, and how to attract and retain high-impact and transformative leaders. Before joining RRA, Agnes was managing director of a private equity-backed digital executive search firm, which she helped grow into a market-leading position in Europe.
Tina Fordham is an institution in herself for those of us who have fingers, toes or even entire bodies in the world of finance. She is a well-known name for those in the policy world too, where for years she has acted as a bridge to the world of money!
If you have a question about Russia or Putin - Tina’s the one to call. She knows that world inside and out. And PS: She is very worried about where the world is headed, if Putin isn’t called out!
Tina’s career journey is taking a new turn - She recently kicked off her own geopolitical consultancy Fordham Global Foresight after decades of leading Wall Street in all matters of Political Risk. This week she told me the freedom to say what she truly thinks, without holding back has been the greatest motivator to leave the power of a big bank or brand behind. She was after all the first and only Chief Global Political Analyst at Citi. A role not seen in other banks either. She joined Citi in 2003, where she advised institutional investors and corporate boards on the implications of macro political, security and socio-economic factors.
This week saw Journey’s first ever cadre of hand-picked Fellows meet our amazing champions. I unfortunately had to miss our first retreat in Utah, United States, thanks to airlines, their lack of planes in the air and a clash with meeting Jane! While my flights may not have aligned, the stars have for these hand-picked future leaders and their Champions. I cannot wait to meet them in September when we gather again in Washington D.C.
Chosen by our Champions, our passionate founders Nina Easton and Pattie Sellers and the hearts and souls of Journey: the fabulous Beverly Kirk, the remarkable Nicole Didda and the most amazing Julie Schlosser — The 24 Fellows in the 2022-23 class are U.S.-based leaders in the private sector, reflecting a diversity of race, ethnicity, industry, geography, and background. Do reach out to our Fellows if you think they are valuable to what you do too!
Have an amazing week, and if you live in a part of the world that desperately needs a dose of Vitamin D, remember to slow down and enjoy the sunshine — It’s part of the formula to happiness and success in the long run - per happiness guru Mo Gawdat’s advise to me this week! And he knows what he’s talking about!