The Future Talent conference never fails to disappoint, and the virtual conference this year was no different. Focusing on the themes of purpose, meaning and culture, there was an inspiring line up of speakers throughout the two-day online event.
Each speaker addressed these key themes, whilst also bringing in their own personal experiences into their presentations, connecting directly to the audience despite the virtual nature of this year’s occasion.
To begin with, author and entrepreneur Dr Margaret Heffernan talked about retaining our human nature in a world that is increasingly separated by and controlled by technology. Dr Heffernan said that the reliability of technology has stopped us exploring the uncertain and taking risks, and has also often stopped us thinking for ourselves. As such, leaders should focus on the human element of leadership, and aim to create a culture that encourages positive relationships amongst colleagues. From her perspective, an organization’s success, and the ability to implement effective structural change, depends on the trust and commitment people feel between each other.
Trust and transparency are key within organisations
The panel discussion featuring Simon Fanshawe, co-founder of Diversity by Design, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Sarah Jenkins, Heidrick & Struggles’ Jenni Hibbert, Deloitte’s Emma Codd and Finsbury’s Louisa Moreton, all elaborated on this. They discussed why inclusion is about dynamic discussion, and how these conversations can only happen when there is trust and transparency within organisations. Managers must have as many conversations as possible with their colleagues in order to instigate real, genuine change. This also resonated with Adam Kingl, who argued for more ‘human-centric’ leadership, claiming that management styles going forward must be focused on being more relevant and less about control, urging those in charge to be clear, to inspire, and to encourage cooperation.
Of course, throughout the pandemic, management styles have had to adapt due to mass working from home. For business, the challenge now is to reach and include those who feel isolated. As writer and adviser Christine Armstrong said, you can lose sense of belonging without the structure of an office, and it is important that managers recognize this in order to make sure people aren’t left behind so that they can continue to contribute productively despite being physically separated from their colleagues.
Working from home has blurred boundaries
Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James's Church in Piccadilly London, understands what ‘working where you live’ means all too well. Speaking from her home in central London next door to the church in which she works, Lucy described how for many of us, working from home has meant that purpose and meaning has become blurred. As a leader herself, Lucy described that in difficult times leaders should not give in to temptation to construct fantasies of the situation we are all in, and that realism and acceptance of the presence is key. We must not wish we were someone else or somewhere else – but instead should focus on the here and now.
Indeed, a lot of us have had time this year to reflect about our purpose in life, and many of us have realised how resilient we can truly be in such unprecedented times. This is always true for British astronaut Major Tim Peake, who described how his time in space altered his perspective on life back on earth, and how preparing for his trip to the international space station provided key lessons in leadership, self-management, and mental strength. The key takeaway from this moving talk was that resilience, self-awareness, a positive mindset and interpersonal skills are crucial for us all as we navigate today’s disruptive landscape.
We must embrace our failures if we are to succeed
Which leads us on to the last speaker of the conference – world famous adventurer Bear Grylls. Bear gave a moving talk about his own life experiences, how he has overcome difficult times in his life, and ultimately how he has embraced his failures instead of letting them bring him down. Bear claimed that life rewards those who are determined and walk towards their fears. In Bear’s words - “know the power of resilience – it is the storms of life that make us stronger. Never give up”.
The Future Talent virtual conference was an insightful, inspiring, and motivational two days. There are lessons we could all take from the fantastic speakers and their words of wisdom, reflection, and advice for the future. We look forward to next year!