A few weeks ago, The Business Roundtable, a group of Chief Executive Officers of nearly 200 major U.S. corporations, issued a statement with a new definition of the “purpose of a corporation.” The reimagined idea of a corporation drops the age-old notion that corporations function first and foremost to serve their shareholders and maximize profits. Rather, investing in employees, delivering value to customers, dealing ethically with suppliers and supporting outside communities are now at the forefront of American business goals, according to the statement. With the urgency of climate change, and the need to actively rethink the way we are running our organizations today, leaders need to step up and be the change so that we are able to run our businesses in a way that improves societies and our planet. With the ever-growing ambiguity in the environment, leaders who demonstrate resilience will have the opportunity to navigate these multi-layered complexities.

Together with Common Purpose, SAP Next-Gen invited four senior leaders from different industries to share their perspectives and insights on challenges they face and lessons learned from their respective leadership journeys. In attendance were emerging and senior leaders in Hong Kong from across sectors, many of whom are alumni of Common Purpose programmes. We have summarized some of the areas discussed with our participants during the panel conversations and group sessions.

  • Communicate Powerfully, Lead by Example and Be Open: As a team leader, people are watching you all the time. In difficult times, some leaders will act individually and not inform their team members about their larger vision. The most resilient leaders effectively communicate their intentions to others, listen to their teams, and seek their inputs. Collaboration between leaders and their teams can inform a new strategy or direction. Transparent communication helps others understand changes and expectations. During a crisis, a leader faces the opportunity to confront it with composure, resilience and strong leadership skills. The team will take that lesson forward in the hopes of becoming more resilient themselves.

  • Build Positive Relationships: By demonstrating trust and practising open-mindedness, resilient leaders create strong teams by building positive relationships. An individual may be willing to make a dramatic change, but it requires positive relationships to get teams and organizations to own the problem and find a solution.

  • Be Inclusive: Leaders should exhibit humility and accept that they do not have all the answers. This allows for different perspectives from a diverse pool of talent. Diverse teams will be more resilient as they will be better equipped to respond to different situations. Resilient leaders are able to manage and orchestrate action within this diversity by getting others to respect differing points of view and support change.

  • Be Decisive: Making decisions is always difficult because no person has all the data or understands all outcomes. However, organizations cannot progress until a decision gets made. The most resilient leaders make thoughtful, strategic decisions and move forward. If they make the wrong decision, they are quick to pivot and move in another direction.

  • Be Bold Risk Takers: Resilient individuals display a willingness to take bold risks and try new ideas. While doing so, they can often be surrounded by nay-sayers or people who think that they are too radical. It is too easy for teams to get stuck in a rut in which they continue to conduct work in the same way from year to year. Resilient leaders prepare organizations to change and multiply their impact, challenging themselves every day. Resilient leaders do not shy away from taking risks and making bold changes.

  • Learn From Your Failures: The true grit of a leader is not how they perform during the good times but rather how they display emotional strength, courage and professionalism during the most trying times. Sometimes, we make a mistake and we fail, but it’s important to view this as an opportunity to learn and become a more resilient leader. Teams can celebrate not only their success stories but also their failures, as they show growth and progress; and, more importantly, they illustrate an organization’s willingness to make a change.

  • Start Early with a Growth Mindset: It is important to teach our kids to fail as long as it provides a learning opportunity and a chance to positively shape future decisions. A growth mindset needs to be cultivated early by allowing children to make mistakes, adapt to change and bounce back from disappointment, working towards meaningful goals. These characteristics will help them become better team players and eventually, leaders, later in life. Mental well-being is another crucial aspect in making us more resilient while facing tough decisions. 

  • Be Able to Cross Different Boundaries: In times when problems cross different divides, leaders need to cross them too to optimize their response to these problems. Resilient leaders can navigate boundaries of geography, gender, language, generation, sectors, specializations, beliefs and backgrounds to take people along and influence beyond their own circle of authority for a desired impact on their ecosystems.

Today’s world needs strong, sustainable and resilient leadership within organizations. We need to start talking about change at every level if we want to run successful companies. Finally, we need to model resilience to motivate people to pursue their passion and inspire innovative mindsets at work, driving us all to a healthier and a happier world.