We are not the same firm that went into COVID lockdown in Spring 2020.
As a leader, if you think you’re going to run the same business as you were in February 2020, think again. We are not the same leaders who went into COVID lockdown, and if you think we are the same people, with the same mindset, desires, priorities, mentality, think again. These crises have made all of us think harder about what is important. Each of us has had to recommit to our mission of ‘investing for a world worth living in’ in a different way over the past two years.
So, what do we need now from our leaders?
While traditional leadership teaches leaders to exude confidence at all times it does not always emphasise the value of humility. The past two years have highlighted that we do not have all the answers, we are not infallible and the days of deference to a hierarchy are over. Humility enables curiosity, something which has been demonstrated time and time again as of enormous value to us. Curiosity facilitates finding the right way forward though a crisis. Humility is not denying your skills, wisdom or position – it is acknowledging your own limitations and the value of others – of their skills, wisdom, experience and perspective.
Modelling the courage to be agile has become even more important – when someone asked for our 5-year plan a few weeks ago, I tried hard not to laugh. It took courage to say that we don’t have one, we have a purpose and a mission and we will stay true to that. We do not enjoy the luxury of certainty any more – did we ever? – and the pace with which change happens now is fear-inducing unless we can stay agile enough to navigate nimbly.
Understanding your why as a leader turns a challenge into an opportunity, enabling you to bring optimism, determination and most of all purpose to your team’s approach to work. Having a shared purpose devolves the joy of problem solving to everyone, creating a safe environment, unleashing the potential for great innovation.
When all else fails, falling back on our long-term purpose is important to ensure we do the right thing. The world is changing so fast and the focus from the media pushes the short-term in our faces, so we need to swim against the tide to keep our focus on the long term. For us, this is where we really are ‘Forging Better Futures’.
All of the above come together in our thoughts on leadership around our Climate Stocktake. It is important for us to practice humility. We are working out what has worked for us with our Climate Change Policy, what didn’t work, and we are curious enough to explore new possibilities that weren’t available to us in 2019 when we first published it. Crucially, we are asking searching questions of a broad range of stakeholders, in order to learn from their various perspectives. Many policies in the financial services space are published, left on the shelf for the next few years and only dusted off when prompted by regulation. We are committing to this review now because of the progress on Net Zero. Our purpose remains the same, but achieving that purpose means consulting with all key stakeholders so that we know what is working well and what needs innovation.
By reviewing all we do in light of our long-term climate goals, we will be fully equipped to make the short-term changes we most need to fulfil our ultimate goals.