Insight

Pearls of Wisdom: What it takes to be a powerful, impactful and influential leader in today’s environment

Kaitlin Hastie
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In a high-speed, high-energy presentation at NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show, Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman and Managing Director Carla Harris shared her Eight Pearls of intentional leadership.
Contents

1. Authenticity

The first one is authenticity. No one can be you the way you can be you. That is your competitive advantage. So never submerge what is uniquely you. Whenever you act or speak in a way that is inauthentic, that is when you create the competitive disadvantage. Bringing your authentic self into your work environment is more important than ever and the last two years is full of examples where relaxed formal conventions have given leaders the opportunity to be themselves. The pandemic gave us a global shared experience where you had to be vulnerable and authentic. So, to be a powerful leader moving forward that will be required.

2. Trust

The second pearl of intentional leadership is building trust. We are all moving into unknown territories. None of us have ever lived on the other side of a global pandemic! All great leaders know that we cannot do this alone. You will need somebody else’s intellect, experience and access to relationships to successfully prosecute ANY endeavour. For people to trust you and follow you into unknown territories, they must engage in order to build that trust. A key ingredient to building trust is transparency. You must be transparent about what you know and what you don’t know - especially in this environment of uncertainty where people crave stability. Running successful businesses is about having the right people in the right seat at the right time. And to do this you must have trust in people.

3. Clarity

The third pearl is that leaders must create clarity. It is a leader’s job to do this even when they cannot see. You cannot allow a lack of vision to impede your forward motion, particularly in uncertain environments. If you can’t see for the next quarter or next month, create clarity and define success for a finite period of time. Because success begets success.

4. Create other leaders

The next pearl is to create other leaders. This is how you amplify your impact and grow your market share. Focus on what has allowed you to cut your leadership teeth, and ensure that you are now intentionally distributing this through your organisation. Particularly when millennials and Z’ers are highly focused on their development and their advancement.

5. Diversity

The next one is diversity. This will not just happen on its own! You need to be intentional about it. We are all vulnerable to unconscious bias. If you have homogenous thinking at your decision-making table – you will have a gap in your go-to-market strategy. It will expose you unnecessarily to outside competitive threats. Innovation is the dominant competitive parameter across all industries. If you agree you will need a lot of ideas, experiences, and perspectives in the room in order to get to that one innovative idea that will allow you to succeed - to be an employer of choice.

6. Innovation

As a powerful leader in today’s environment, you must teach your teams how to innovate. To do this you must teach them how to fail. And this is about celebrating the failures. When someone on your team takes a risk and it doesn’t work out, look at what happened and learn from it.

7. Inclusivity

The next one is inclusivity. The question is: how do you show up as an inclusive leader? You simply solicit other peoples’ voices. Here is the problem we are trying to solve, I’ll get us started, not because I am the smartest person in the room… listen to what people have to say and ask them to add and build on it. What you did that was powerful is that you said to them: “I see you and I hear you”. You invited each of them specifically into the conversation by name. Into the solution making process.

8. Voice

The last pearl is voice. You must be willing to call a thing a thing, no matter how bad the thing might be. What holds these pearls together is courage. It takes courage to call something out, to invite team members into the solution making process, to show people what to do when they fail, to be intentional around diversity, to create clarity when you cannot see, to create other leaders, to engage with people and earn and build their trust, to bring your authentic self into any environment.

If you want to be a powerful, impactful and influential leader in today’s environment you must expect and strategise to win.

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