“You know the Facebook’s status ‘It’s complicated?’” Parag Khanna, Managing Partner of FutureMap asked the 2,500-plus audience of CEOs gathered in New York City for YPO’s flagship EDGE event. “Well, if planet Earth had a Facebook status, I don’t think ‘It’s complicated’ would suffice.”
While once we lived in a world where power was more geographically concentrated and could resolutely proclaim, “The buck stops here!”… that’s not true today. Everyone is competing to be the geopolitical security provider, the one providing the most essential infrastructure, the one selling the cleanest energy, the one with the most cutting-edge technology/medical equipment/vaccines.
If you really believe being empathetic and authentic are going to take away from your profits you’re never going to get there. You have to genuinely believe that trust will accelerate your market cap and profits because if you are doing it for performative reasons, it will never work. ”
— Frances Frei, Harvard Business School Professor share
As Parag says, to trailblaze in the 21st century, a leader has to be self-assured in three languages: geopolitics, geoeconomics and geotechnology.
“I don’t think anyone is qualified to be a leader in this world unless they’re fluent in all three,” he told the crowd.
Unleashing the power of trust
In today’s business environment, building trust may be the most important responsibility of a CEO. Without it, brands – and their leaders – will fail.
“If you really believe being empathetic and authentic are going to take away from your profits you’re never going to get there,” explains Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei. “You have to genuinely believe that trust will accelerate your market cap and profits because if you are doing it for performative reasons, it will never work.”
Authenticity, logic and empathy are the key characteristics every CEO must espouse to build trust.
She cites Walmart, Microsoft and Accenture as organizations that are thriving because they have stayed open to learning and rebuilding trust in their organizations, treating it as an explicable workplace factor, rather than a nebulous, undefinable notion.
“Trust is as understandable as a supply chain issue,” says Frei. “We just have to have the desire to build it.”
The issue of trust is one that TikTok CEO Shou Chew knows all too well. His young platform has been dealing with trust issues from users and policymakers alike.
“Trust is a priority for us,” says Chew. “We need to earn this trust with consistent actions over a period of time.”
Chew went on to explain this includes listening to stakeholders’ concerns and then building solutions to address them, rather than trying to argue his way out of it.
“Trust is not something that you earn with one big gesture or one big symbolic action,” he says. “It’s not something that’s going to be earned quickly so, we have to keep working at it over time and through very consistent actions to earn the trust of the stakeholders surrounding our business.”
Stand by for rough waters
As we look toward an uncertain future with environmental challenges, autocrats doing their darndest to topple world order and unstable geopolitical and geoeconomic landscapes, leaders must become sentinels, says retired General James Mattis, USMC. “Leaders are going to have to anticipate challenges ahead or their organizations will get ambushed.”
Crisis, whether in your family life, your personal life or your corporate life, strips the veneer off an individual and reveals their character, according to Mattis. While the future is not foreseeable, there are signposts out there. Mattis goes back to the issue of trust.
“You should focus heavily on building trust through your organization so it can be a shock absorber and allow you to stay on your feet no matter what comes your way.”
EDGE is YPO’s premier annual event and the largest gathering of CEOs in the world. For three days in New York City, more than 2,500 chief executives from 80 countries gather with influential thought leaders and experts to learn about and discuss critical topics in business and beyond. EDGE fosters a culture of trust, respect and inclusivity, where global leaders emerge with solutions to drive change and help shape our collective future. YPO EDGE is exclusively for YPO members. Learn more about EDGE
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