Windsor Leadership's Question Time: Reflecting on current leadership challenges and opportunities
Written by Simon Whitbread | Leadership Academy Director, Windsor Leadership
Last month we held our first large face-to-face event for three years, Windsor Leadership’s Question Time. It was great to come together with alumni from our full 27-year history, hear from our three panellists and ask them questions on a whole range of leadership topics. We also took the opportunity to ask the audience some questions too. It’s not every day that you get to ask more than 200 senior leaders across all sectors, about the challenges they face and the opportunities they are looking to develop. So, what did we learn?
We started by asking those present how they felt their organisation was doing in tackling some of the key organisational challenges, such as Wellbeing, Diversity & Inclusion and Environmental Responsibility. It was clear that many organisations were working hard to fulfil their obligations but less than 50% of leaders felt that their organisation was tackling these successfully. This shows that we all clearly have a long way to go in terms of making an impact here. However, there are organisations out there who have made progress in these areas and there are solutions to be found. So as leaders there is a lot more we can learn and even more that we can do.
Most of those present felt that meeting employee wellbeing expectations would have the biggest impact on organisational performance. However, there was an emphasis on how we as leaders need to stop considering this subject as a challenge to overcome, or a task to complete, and more of an opportunity to support and empower those we lead. Not just for our employees’ sakes but also for those that our organisations are looking to serve.
Yet, the challenges that we face internally are made all the more difficult by the ever changing and increasing pressures that we face from outside our organisations. When asked about the biggest challenges that leaders face over the coming year, the two answers that came out considerably ahead, were ‘the cost-of-living crisis’ and ‘trust in the establishment’. Two areas that aren’t likely to disappear soon, whatever changes in government happen in the short term.
What was perhaps surprising though, was not the problems that were ahead, as they are all too evident in the news and our everyday lives, but the challenges that got very few votes. It was a clear reminder of how a leader needs to constantly balance the urgent versus the important. Both climate change and lack of social mobility scored relatively low on the polls. How much of this is because these challenges, whilst extremely important, are not front and centre in many leaders’ day-to-day roles? How might our view of climate change, for example, be different if we lived in a part of the world that has been more adversely affected by it?
At the close of the evening, we were reminded by one of the panellists that one of the responsibilities of a leader is to lead, where we can, with optimism and hope. Not because of a naivety that comes from lack of knowledge or understanding, but from the faith that comes from knowing that as leaders, and with the people we lead, we can make a difference and there will be better times ahead. It was a poignant end to the evening and a reminder of how powerful leading for good can be.