Jobs and the Future of Work

Which leadership skills are needed to create impactful change? Young Global Leaders explain

Young Global Leaders in a lecture room during a two-week course at Harvard Kennedy School.

Young Global Leaders believe that today’s pressing problems present an ideal opportunity to build a better future. Image: World Economic Forum

James Forsyth
Community Lead, South Asia/ASEAN, and Member Relations, Young Global Leaders, World Economic Forum
Celia Becherel
Coordinator, Young Global Leaders, World Economic Forum
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  • Young Global Leaders are united by the belief that today's pressing problems are the ideal opportunity to build a better future across sectors.
  • A select group of YGLs recently attended a two-week course on global leadership and public policy at Harvard University in the US.
  • Participants considered major issues facing future generations and acquired new skills and knowledge on how to lead more effectively in uncertain times.

Convergence between geopolitical tensions, economic turmoil, and social unrest has lifted uncertainty to exceptionally high levels in the past year.

The World Uncertainty Index has become a vital reference tool to track the evolution of these conditions and leaders have to adjust to the growing need for resiliency and develop an ability to plan beyond the immediate future.

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Against this backdrop, we have invited 63 of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders from different regions and sectors to attend a two-week course on Global Leadership and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss leadership challenges and solutions.

Here, seven of them reflect on how the leadership skills they acquired will help them in creating even more meaningful change:

'Leadership is, above all, a team effort'

Silvia Wiesner, Committee Chair, European Women on Boards, Germany

Leadership is not a solo sport; it is a team effort. So for truly impactful change, not only do we need to follow a strong decision-making process and allocate appropriate time to diagnosis, criteria selection, evaluation of options and associated trade-offs, we also must put people at the centre of everything we do.

First of all, we need to meet them where they currently are – and that refers to the wider ecosystem: gatekeepers, endorsers, resistors, fence-sitters. Secondly, we want to honour their (perceived) change-related losses. Thirdly, we need to continuously aim for the sweet spot above the threshold of learning, but below the limit of tolerance.

'Paving the way towards future successes'

Paul Rivera, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kalibrr, Philippines

This week at Harvard Kennedy School was an unexpected gift – learning from world-renowned professors with their deep domain expertise at HKS, coupled with the unique experiences of my fellow YGLs, created an unparalleled learning experience that I believe will serve as the foundation for my transition to an eventual Old Global Leader.

young global leaders at harvard
Sixty-three Young Global Leaders attended the two-week course at Harvard Kennedy School. Image: World Economic Forum

'Solving various challenges with a common tool kit'

Aditi Avasthi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Embibe, India

If you are lucky, you will get to participate in this crucible of deep social reflection on decades of leadership challenges across cultural, geopolitical, industrial and economic complexity. It was incredible to be a participant in thought provoking discussions held on a foundation of authenticity, transparency and camaraderie. The curriculum lit up every part of my mind – from delightful discussions on how art feeds into leadership to negotiation replay.

The most powerful takeaway for me was the similarity of challenges faced by YGLs as they work to lead adaptive change around the world. Authentic discussions abstracting these nuanced experiences to a common tool kit, value system and a shared vocabulary were extremely powerful. So was the message to take care of ourselves as we go the distance.

'The best route to empathy is leadership'

Maria Eugenia del Castillo, Special Advisor, Vice Presidency of the Dominican Republic

This course touched our hearts, as much as our minds. Being together for 10 days with such a diverse group of people driven by the willingness to drive change with tangible actions in our generation is a lifetime opportunity. Amongst others, some of my main takeaways are that being a leader requires constant thinking on how to become better at it but also that the best route to empathy is leadership. Finally, as leaders, we often forget how to ask for help. Doing it, not only is a sign of strength but can also open doors to new ideas, opportunities and especially, self-care.

'Navigating volatility is intrinsic to becoming an effective leader'

Mohammed Alghanim, Chief Executive Officer, Hamad S. Al-Ghanim & Sons Group of Companies, Kuwait

The Harvard University programme was a resounding opportunity to engage with seasoned scholars from the university and practitioners from the YGL and the World Economic Forum within a safe and prestigious environment that aimed to probe our predisposed knowledge on leadership.

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The curriculum highlighted the exigence of uncertainty and how navigating the volatility of today's world is intrinsic to becoming an effective leader. I left the programme with a strong sense of empowerment and concurrently, a remarkable appreciation to the camaraderie that was forged between the YGLs who were selected to partake in this year's programme.

'Leaders experience similar challenges in different context'

Matthew Katz, Global Head of Data Science, Blackstone, US

As leaders, we all have unique challenges that we are grappling with. Coming to Harvard and spending a week with YGL peers provides clarity that these challenges are not unique to our situation but common struggles across leadership and predicates to drive real impact. I leave Harvard more confident, inspired, and grateful.

'Evaluation tools are crucial to allow for effective leadership'

David Alexander Walcott, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Novamed, Jamaica

As an executive focused on emerging markets in an era characterized by global volatility, uncertainty and complexity, I am aware of the need to exercise prudent decision-making as a leader in my personal and professional capacities.

This learning experience has equipped me with an arsenal of principles, practices & frameworks to be able to optimize both my rational and intuitive decision-making. I have resolved to incorporate decision trees, Bayesian thinking and other evaluative tools in my model of leadership and go forward with a renewed ability to think more soundly, systemically and strategically in navigating an ambiguous and complex world.

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