Leadership

Clean energy, new tech and how leaders can navigate change effectively: Vattenfall CEO Anna Borg

To navigate change, leaders must consider what they want to change into, says Anna Borg, Vattenfall CEO.

To navigate change, leaders must consider what they want to change into, says Anna Borg, Vattenfall CEO. Image: vattenfall

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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Leadership

This article is part of: The Davos Agenda
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  • Meet The Leader is a fortnightly podcast from the World Economic Forum that features the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • Anna Borg, CEO of Swedish energy company Vattenfall, talked to Meet The Leader about how the company is transforming and phasing out fossil fuels and how leaders can better navigate change.

Technology is changing rapidly and leaders are faced with the urgent need to rethink how they operate to prepare for a sustainable world. It's a transformative time, but as Anna Borg reminds us, leaders must consider one key question: What will they transform into?

Borg is the CEO of Vattenfall, the first-ever female head of a Swedish energy company looking to make a fossil fuel-free future a reality in a generation. Such a goal means embracing new ways of working - from new collaborations to new business models.

Much change is already underway at Vattenfall. The company is a member of the Hybrit project, a joint venture with Swedish steelmaker SSAB and iron ore miner LKAB, that has developed the world's first fossil-free steel. Hybrit, a contraction of 'Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology' replaces fossil fuels in iron pellet production (a key ingredient of steel). With fossil-free pellets, fossil-free electricity and hydrogen, the initiative marks a key milestone in cutting carbon emissions from industry.

Additionally, last year, the company became one of the founding members of the First Movers Coalition, an initiative that will create a market for critical decarbonizing technologies and leveraging collective demand. This initiative was launched by US State Department through the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, and the World Economic Forum.

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Such initiatives help Vattenfall make the most of its capabilities to make an impact while ensuring the company can be competitive now and in the years ahead. Borg understands change management and talked to Meet the Leader about the frameworks she uses to make change happen. To this end, she says there are four questions leaders can ask themselves as they navigate change and shifting technological landscapes.

To navigate change, ask yourself these questions:

1. What company do I want to lead? Leaders must consider what sort of company they would like to leave to the next generation of owners, employees, and customers. Says Borg: "That's the first point - to have a vision and the purpose that is clear."

2. Am I facing reality? Says Borg, it's important to see the world not in the way you wish it was or used to be. You must face the implications of you decisions. This is not a one-time exercise, she stresses, as realities evolve and shift. Such a question is critical to adapt your plans and ensure your decisions are effective.

3. Who can help my vision succeed? In any transition, leaders must consider what kind of people and colleagues they need beside them. Who can help make your vision a reality? You need a team with skills and experiences that complement yours since leaders cannot do everything on their own.

4. How will I get the feedback I need? Leaders driving change need honest, constructive feedback. This feedback ensures that visions and plans can adjust to new needs and challenges and give leaders a window into what's happening, what's going on and how things are being perceived.

Leaders need to help create the environment for this feedback, being sure to ask for it and thank those who provide it. Such honest feedback is a gift, says Borg. "Sometimes it's not the nicest thing to be nice. Sometimes the nicest thing is to be clear, open, transparent, and that's also what you should base your decision making on."

Borg will speak this week at Davos Agenda on a special session on scaling climate technologies. Ahead of that session, learn how Borg tackles big decisions -- as well as the habits that she can't work without -- on the latest episode of Meet the Leader.

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Related topics:
LeadershipDavos AgendaEnergy Transition
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