5 leaders and the turning points that changed how they lead and build

In its 101st edition, the World Economic Forum’s Meet the Leader podcast featured episode highlights from the series.

In its 101st edition, the World Economic Forum’s Meet the Leader podcast featured episode highlights from the series. Image: Unsplash/jaysung

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
Andrea Willige
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Sometimes a single incident can be enough to change a person’s leadership approach and journey.
  • In its 101st edition, the World Economic Forum’s Meet the Leader podcast featured episode highlights from the series.
  • Anthropologist Jane Goodall, climate champion Al Gore and former CEO of Deloitte, Punit Renjen are among those sharing key turning points for their leadership skills.
  • Get the podcast on our website or any podcast app via this link.

“One moment can change a day, one day can change a life and one life can change the world.” – Buddha

The World Economic Forum’s Meet the Leader podcast has just celebrated its 100th edition with an episode focusing on the series’ highlights to date. The common theme among the clips selected by presenter Linda Lacina was a turning point in the guests’ professional lives and leadership skills.

Meet the leader Jane Goodal
Jane Goodall convinced a grumpy taxi driver that by helping animals you can help people, too. Image: World Economic Forum

Learning from chimps – Jane Goodall, anthropologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute

For anthropologist Jane Goodall, this turning point was meeting a grumpy London taxi driver who complained that Goodall, just like his own sister, was only interested in animals when there were so many people suffering in the world.

“So I sat forward. And I told him stories about the chimps, how we were helping people to rise out of poverty or find alternative jobs. I told him stories about the chimps showing compassion and altruism to each other.”

Having left him with $50 to support his sister’s work at an animal shelter, Goodall soon received a letter from the sister thanking her for changing her brother’s attitude to her work with animals for the better.

“You've got to reach the heart,” she told Meet the Leader. “It's no good arguing with the head. It's no good blinding someone with statistics. Change must come from within.”

View of AI Gore at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
Former VP of the United States, Al Gore, found a visual approach was more likely to inspire people to care about climate change. Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum

‘A slideshow is worth a thousand speeches’ – Al Gore, former US Vice President and founder of the Climate Reality Project

When former US Vice President Al Gore organized his first congressional hearing on the climate crisis, he invited a professor and climate scientist who had inspired him greatly in his college years. Yet, the professor’s presentation fell short of having the same effect on his audience of representatives. Gore realized then that he had to find other ways of capturing people’s imaginations.

“It’s the old cliché, a picture's worth a thousand words. I found that a slideshow is worth a thousand speeches if it's done well. And then I was approached by some folks in Hollywood to make my slideshow into a movie. I thought that was a silly idea. I couldn't see how it would work, but they have more talent than I counted.”

In addition to two films, Gore has also applied this storytelling approach to training 50,000 grassroots climate advocates.

View of Punit Renjen at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
Punit Renjen’s learned a valuable lesson his family’s in-it-together approach to a failing business. Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum

‘This, too, shall pass’ – Punit Renjen, Emeritus CEO, Deloitte

Punit Renjen, a former CEO of Deloitte, grew up in a town 40 miles west of New Delhi, where his father ran a manufacturing business. Sent to boarding school as a boy, he had to return home at 14 when his father’s business failed and the family had to pull together to keep it going.

“It taught me a few things. One thing was taking the long view. This is something that my father always insisted on. He was always an optimist, the glass-half-full type of individual.

“The second learning was that this, too, shall pass.” Renjen found this learning particularly useful during the pandemic.

“And then, persistence and hard work. These have been key calling cards for me.”

View of Caroline Casey at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
Perfection is a futile quest, be good enough, says Caroline Casey. Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum

‘Eighty percent is good enough’ – Caroline Casey, CEO, The Valuable 500

As the founder of The Valuable 500, Caroline Casey heads up an organization that represents 22 million workers across 64 sectors worldwide, all working to end disability exclusion. Her turnaround moment came when she learned that trying to achieve perfection was getting in the way of achieving her goals.

Her mentor at the time told her: "If you want to scale change, if you want system change, 80% is good enough. Perfection is what gets in your way. Get out of your way. Get out of your own way.”

This changed her entire approach to leading her organization.

View of Yuxiang Zhou at Annual Meeting of the New Champions.
Tackling a major climbing challenge gave Yuxiang Zhou the perspective he needed to thrive after a failure. Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum

Taking your time – Yuxiang Zhou, CEO, Black Lake Technologies

Yuxiang Zhou, now the CEO of Black Lake Technologies, went through a startup failure before founding the company. To escape from this sobering experience and get a fresh perspective, he decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

“The journey to the summit was really, really tough. But you know the process: you just follow your guide one step after another and ignore everything else. And you continue to do that for 6 hours. Then I reached the top and I had tears in my eyes. I felt maybe this is how we should do a start-up.”

He went back to his previous co-founders and shared his insights. “Adopting a more ‘zen’ mindset opened our eyes to more opportunities and to being more patient.”


For more leadership insights, listen to the Meet the Leader, and for weekly podcasts about how humanity can confront the biggest problems, search for Radio Davos.

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