Why International Leadership Matters Now By Maureen Metcalf

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At the International Leadership Association 18th Annual conference in Atlanta in October 2016 focused on the dynamics of inclusive leadership, I had the great honor of interviewing key conference speakers. These interviews will be featured on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.”

Not only was I honored to attend and present at the conference, I was invited to interview several key speakers and board members. This one-on-one contact allowed me to ask questions I cared about in my own journey as well as framing a conversation I thought would be interesting for our listeners. It was an opportunity to stretch my own thinking, get uncomfortable in discussions, and question my own beliefs. My intent in this blog is to share a snapshot of my take-aways and, also, to invite you to listen to the interviews and do your own summary of what you heard from this robust group of thought leaders and role models.  
Metcalf & Associates developed a leadership competency focused on the mindset and behaviors required to successfully navigate the complexity we face now and will continue to face in the future. This model was published in the ILA book Leadership 2050. One of the seven competencies is intellectually versatile, welcomes collaboration in a quest for novel solutions that serve the highest outcome for all involved. This competency includes the following behaviors:

• Seeks input from multiple perspectives—valuing diverse points of view

• Creates solutions to complex problems by creating new approaches that did not exist, pulling together constituents in novel ways, creating broader and more creative alliances

• Understands that in a time of extreme change, input from multiple stakeholders with diverse points of view are required

I wanted to share some of my reflections as we kick off the series. Listening to the presentations and interviewing the speakers helped me identify several key themes. The following is my personal application of intellectual versatility in stretching my own thinking and reflects what I heard across the range of speakers (seeking multiple perspectives and synthesizing them to refine my own thinking). As I update my personal practice of leadership, I am thinking about what actions I can personally take to remain as effective as possible.

1. The world is changing and some of these changes will change the trajectory as a species. How we navigate the turbulence is becoming a core competency—because chaos is not going away. We will not only face multiple concurrent changes; it is likely we will be living through turbulence the balance of our lives and some of that turbulence may change the trajectory of how humans navigate life on the planet. Climate change was mentioned frequently—not as a discussion of cause, but rather that we need to address the multiple impacts as a result of it. Some saw it as an opportunity to come together across borders to address the global issue.

2. People are now emerging as global citizens. While we live in local communities, organized by countries and continents, we are also part of the global citizenry that must address key planetary issues like climate and migration as a collective if we are to create the most robust solutions. Part of the glue that will make this possible is identifying global values that can serve as a rallying point for everyone, such as transparency in governance.

3. We are a group of scholars and practitioners who come together to address the greatest problems of our time by accurately identifying the adaptive challenges and working together to research and pilot solutions.  While everyone acknowledges that we face huge issues, there was a sense of hope because we had great minds in the room committed to creating and implementing solutions.

4. There was a strong focus on doing the work to create a peaceful planet. These conversations covered a broad range of topics such as, how do we identify ourselves, and how does that identity impact our mindset about in groups and out groups—all the way to the very macro discussion about national approaches to creating peaceful relationships across countries? These discussions were not whimsical or wishful, they focused on identifying actions we can each take to create peace in our own communities first. A couple of actions included learning about others and treating those who are different from us with respect rather than fear. The second is identifying in ourselves when we default, often unconsciously, to fear rather than curiosity. We know there are times when fear is appropriate to maintain safety; and yet, are we too fearful. Are we creating a culture in which, driven by fear, we miss the opportunities to break down barriers that no longer serve us?

5. Are we creating opportunities to be a global community that cares for every citizen based on their humanity—not based on what those citizens can offer in terms of resources?

This came out during a discussion on refugees, but also in addressing other groups that are under-served or are the “out” group. Again, these discussions were grounded in research, action, and compassion. There was a strong acknowledgment that leaving people behind causes unintended consequences that are not acceptable. We need to find a way to balance actions, as an example  retraining, as the economic landscape changes to ensure citizens are employed and contributing to their own care as well as to society.

This exploration is most useful when put into action. During one of the interviews I made a commitment to examine my own thinking and biases more closely to see where I can revise my thinking as well as behavior. It also reinforced things I care about, but have not put into action in my busy professional life. I tried to include a discussion in each interview about how can we move to action in our own lives irrespective of the level of our role in our work, families, and communities.

I invite you to join me in these conversations and see how they inform your thinking. This is certainly an opportunity to build your intellectual versatility.

About the author
Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

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