Leading the Way to Latin America’s Future

Published
15 Mar 2018
2018
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Alem Tedeneke, Media Lead, Public Engagement, Tel.: +1 212 703 6642; Mobile: +1 646 204 9191; Email: ated@weforum.org

· A good leader creates a vision around which people can mobilize

· Polls show that confidence in leaders, especially politicians, is on the wane

· Latin Americans believe they are worse off now than 50 years ago, despite objective indicators that show important improvements

· More information about the meeting: http://wef.ch/la18

São Paulo, Brazil, 15 March 2018 – Leaders need to do two things, and do them very well: create a vision and mobilize people around it, said Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, in the closing session of the 2018 World Economic Forum on Latin America.

“A leader is someone who takes you farther than you thought you could go,” noted Luiza Helena Trajano, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Magazine Luiza, Brazil. In a business you lead people by connecting to their minds by letting them participate; their hearts by recognizing their worth; and their pocketbook by letting them participate in the profits, she added.

Several panellists cited different polls about “most-respected professions” that show leaders in labour, business and politics as “cellar dwellers”. This may help explain the anti-establishment mood that has created space for populists with simplistic ideas. Trust in institutions, politicians and democracy is on a downslide.

Alejandro Ramírez, Chief Executive Officer, Cinepolis, Mexico, cited a poll showing that a large majority of Latin Americans believe that life is worse now than it was 50 years ago despite improvements in objective indicators such as GDP per capita, infant mortality and life expectancy. He ascribes this “cognitive dissonance” to “the lack of the rule of law”. Of the world’s 50 most violent cities, 42 are in the region. The problem can be traced in large part to a “failed drug policy,” he said. “It is not working.” In addition, business and political leaders have focused excessively on reforms designed to encourage economic growth and not enough on inclusiveness and equality.

Woods outlined three elements of a good leader. First, listen. If a populist candidate says he is going to give everyone a gun, it might seem absurd. But it demonstrates that the candidate understands their concerns about security. This is the opposite of how most politicians operate with their spin doctors.

The second element on Woods’ list is communications. Populist messages may seem simplistic. “But simple doesn’t need to be simplistic,” she said. “Learn to take the time to communicate clearly.” Clear messages help citizens hold officials accountable.

Leaders also need to transmit a “transformational message,” Woods concluded. Talk about “balancing the budget is not transformative”. What vision will speak to the people?

Comparing the politician-citizen link to customer relationships in business, Candido Botelho Bracher, Chief Executive Officer, Itaú Unibanco, Brazil, suggested that political leaders pay more attention to the problems of their constituents. “Good leaders are able to listen and understand the pain points that people have when they are looking for services in education, health or transportation,” he said.

Accountability of leaders extends not only to what they do, but also to what they fail to do, noted Paul Bulcke, Chairman of the Board, Nestlé, Switzerland. “Leadership is not about your tenure but what you leave for the next people,” he added.

“There is no room for electoral con artists anymore,” said Maria Cristina Frias, Member of the Board and Columnist, Folha de São Paulo, Brazil. “Candidates need to listen.”

Outcomes of the meeting included:

· The World Economic Forum and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) strengthened efforts to accelerate gender parity in Latin America. A Gender Parity Task Force is set to launch in Peru to increase gender parity in the labour market, following earlier announcements by Argentina, Chile and Panama. This is the fourth such task force in Latin America, resulting from collaboration with the IDB to narrow gender gaps in labour force participation, leadership, remuneration and investment.

· With the changing nature of work, the meeting focused on solutions for human capital development, particularly for youth. Closing the Skills Gap 2020 was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 in January was expanded to Latin America. The Adecco Group, Barclays, EY, SAP, Mercer and Nestlé announced founding commitments. The project calls on businesses to lead training, reskilling and upskilling initiatives for 10 million people by 2020.

· The Forum and the Government of Colombia have in the last year run a public-private partnership to transform and modernize the country’s electricity system so that it benefits from cutting-edge technology and regulation. The successes are highlighted in a white paper launched at the meeting in São Paulo, entitled Frameworks for the Future of Electricity. Sessions explored how to create similar partnerships in other Latin American countries. This forms part of the Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Energy.

· The Fostering Effective Energy Transition global framework and index were launched at the meeting. They were developed within the Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Energy to benchmark the performance and readiness of 114 countries to support an effective energy transition.

· The Brazilian Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services (MDIC) and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation announced a new partnership aimed at increasing Brazil’s competitiveness in international trade and boosting economic development. The partnership will see the Alliance, the Brazilian government and the local and international private sector work together to develop and implement targeted trade facilitation reforms.

· The Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative brought ministers of agriculture and senior leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay together with global and regional CEOs, technology innovators, civil society and regional organizations to define new strategies to accelerate large-scale impact. Country and regional partners committed to action on raising productivity, improving environmental sustainability and land-use, boosting efficient value-chains and shaping consumer demand as part of a systems agenda to realize Latin America's role as the breadbasket of the world.

· The World Economic Forum and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) brought 50 Latin American start-ups together in São Paulo to pave the way for the necessary reforms to enable regional entrepreneurs to thrive. The selected start-ups shared the stage with ministers and CEOs for a frank and honest discussion about the challenges start-ups face in Latin America.

· The Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) launched Tech for Integrity , a digital platform that

leverages emerging technologies from 96 global innovators and partnerships with multistakeholders, including Citi, the IDB, Transparency International and others, to accelerate the impact of anti-corruption efforts for public, private and civil society leaders.

· An outcome of a session hosted by PACI was the agreement with the Chair of B20 Argentina to co-curate a joint meeting between G20/B20/C20 stakeholders to accelerate the adoption of leading practices and policies in addressing corruption in the private sector. The meeting will be hosted after the Summit of the Americas in Buenos Aires in late April 2018.

· Siemens signed a memorandum of understanding with APEX aiming to support potential economic growth in Brazil. Siemens plans to triple its investments in Brazil over the next five years to $1 billion. They expect this commitment to catalyse a new cycle of sustainable growth, with an impact equivalent to 3.1% of GDP and the creation of up to 1.2 million jobs.

The World Economic Forum on Latin America is taking place in São Paulo on 13-15 March. The meeting, which ends today, convened more than 700 regional and global leaders under the theme, Latin America at a Turning Point: Shaping the New Narrative.

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.