Leadership lesson from the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum

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At the 2016 Annual Curators Meeting, Global Shapers spent time exploring values and considering the issues of leadership development. Among many topics, Shapers were asked to consider as leaders the strengths and weaknesses in expressing vulnerability; balancing individual control and collaboration; and standing alone and building a following to enhance a vision. Prof. Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, shared with attendees his pithy leadership advice.

According to Schwab, the components of leadership are: soul, heart, brain, and good nerves (emotional fitness). Many leaders steer their teams with rudders. They set sail feeling out their courses and look for guiding signals. Similarly, Schwab, a former professor of business policy, observed that many businesses constantly adopt defensive positions and stay afloat by avoiding risks. But too few have strategic vision to focus on positive opportunities.

Good leaders act with purpose and value, and speak with clarity and promise. Their audience should feel the impact of their messages in their guts, brain, and soul (in that order). Good leaders often have built-in compasses. They have set paths and are determined to stay the course despite any obstacle. In other words, they must have strong convictions.

Great leaders have both the compass and rudder, and know how to effectively use them in different conditions. Schwab said his views on leadership have been shaped by meetings with stately leaders such as Nelson Mandela. Great leaders must be authentic and credible. They are direct and honest, but act professionally and modestly. Participants spent much time exploring values in the context of youth leadership development. They are willing to make themselves available for their constituents and speak truth to power.


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