The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos finished up last week, with the tagline for this year’s meeting being Cooperation in a Fragmented World. Several factors take the stage in this year’s agenda – recovery from the pandemic, the War in Ukraine, global inflation, the energy crisis – all in the cozy context of a global climate crisis.
This is not only a challenge – but an opportunity and a responsibility. This is where leadership is called on – not just to think big thoughts and make big promises, but act.
In the building a highly valuable and relevant program for uplifting forest company executives, I’ve been inspired by the attention the WEF event is bringing to leadership. So, compared to my previous article, where
I focus on the context in which forest executives in the tropics work. This week I’m extracting perspectives on leadership to come out of the snow-capped peaks of Davos. I’ll dig into the characteristics of a leader fit to tackle complex global challenges and align these to the context of forest leaders in tropical developing countries.
The 5 Dimensions of Effective Leadership
In his article on the 5 Dimensions of Effective Leadership, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab defines the qualities of effective leadership.
1. Clear Purpose – Leaders need a clear direction in whatever they choose to do. Whether the driving force of purpose is from deep beliefs or an ambitious vision, achieving that purpose helps them define their legacy while leaving a positive impact on the world.
Executives need to be in alignment with their own purpose and that of the company they are leading. The general characteristics I described in my past article – talented forester or ambitious entrepreneur fit the bill when it comes to extracting purpose.
2. Professionalism – Leadership requires the competence and skills to successfully perform to achieve goals. Contextual intelligence and a systems-thinking capacity is required to see the big picture and connect the dots.
In forest businesses in the tropics, contextual intelligence requires an understanding of how to manage forests, the maturity and development of the industry and the complexities of working in developing countries. In tropical contexts, systems thinking is not an optional skill to employ – it’s a requirement – yet requires the right mindset and awareness to use as a tool. Bringing all these elements together, along with other dynamics – such as team composition, political situation, investor requirements, customer trends will help a leader understand how a management decision in one system will affect several others.
3. Passion and Compassion – With passion for their work and its potential impact, as well as compassion for others, leaders can engage individuals, communities, and institutions behind a compelling commitment to a common goal.
I would argue that nowhere is it more rewarding to build a thriving and impactful forest business, than in the tropics. The passion here is a must, otherwise leaders will be consumed by the challenge. Engaging and securing local talent, establishing positive and mutually beneficial relationships with outside stakeholders is mandatory. It takes patience and cultural intelligence.
4. Perseverance to Translate Ideas into Action – Effective leaders provide the energy to drive outcomes and achieve impact. Purpose, professionalism, and passion can only go so far unless leaders also have the power and perseverance to execute on their ideas and see them through.
I’ve written previously about the tug-of-war that often exists between company leadership and foreign investors. An effective CEO, will be highly effective at managing up to its investors – through this power and perseverance. Likewise with its team, the CEO will maintain authority and gusto to transform the local way of doing things.
5. Positive Mindset – All leaders encounter adversity, disruption, and many other sources of stress. Resilience and a positive mindset are critical to mastering such situations and emerging even stronger.
Maintaining a positive mindset in the face of adversity challenges all other dimensions. The physical and interpersonal isolation executives of forest companies in the tropics face, increases the risk of a CEO walking away from prolonged difficulty. Having a network of like-minded executives who understand and quite possibly are or have experienced the same challenge provides a sounding board and tool box of solutions to get CEOs through these ruts.
Does this ring true for yourself, as a forest company executive in the tropics or for the leaders at the reigns of the investments you manage?
Leadership Effectiveness Litmus Test
Sitting with this list of effective leadership – you will start to see the varying strength of these qualities within yourself. Maybe they’re strong, and maybe they’ve started to fade. Ask yourself these questions to understand if you’re reaching your potential as an effective leader.
- What do you want to achieve in your role as CEO, and what is motivating this ambition? Are these objectives in alignment with the company you manage?
- Do you have the time and space to see the forest for the trees? Are you able to identify the systems at play in your business and integrate them to move your business forward?
- Do you maintain the spark for your work that got you interested in forestry in the tropics in the first place, and do you bring that out in others?
- Does your authority have buy-in with investors, your team and stakeholders to support materializing your big ideas?
- Are you able to remain positive while working through adversity, and do you have a professional network to support you in rising above challenges to grow your business?
If you’re hovering on a “no” with any of these questions, you will benefit from The Forum for Forest Executives. And where you have a strong “yes”, imagine the benefit that sharing your experience will have with other executives walking in your shoes. In the Forum, we will bring together a tight-knit group of forest company leaders from tropical geographies. We will put the contextual intelligence of technical forest management to the side. We will dig deep on the big picture leadership debate and build your existing toolbox – helping you reach your full potential as a leader in your field and build a strong network of like-minded peers.
The ForestLink is launching The Forum for Forest Executives to lift and connect leadership, reduce business risk, and create more forest investment success stories in the tropics. Learn more about the event and register your interest here.