In late 2015, I mentioned Brexit and the US election result as something that would happen to a room of investors, all of whom responded in kind with wide open mouth laughter … that I was being my paranoid self.  So it happened … alongside a request for “no more predictions”. In conversation with one of our best thought leaders last year, Simon Sinek, I discussed the leadership crisis and how best to tackle it. In my research and learning over the last decade, it is the military that have come up as best practice time and time again on leadership; Simon highlighted that teamwork and communication are different when lives are at risk – the contract is different compared to times when lives are not at risk.  Another way to tackle this, as HRN have researched over the last 2-3 years, is that when it comes to innovation and disruption is diversity is key – over 50% of the talent and peer-to-peer networks in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley are foreign; diversity is rampant.

 

 

Putting Gender Diversity under the microscope, I discussed this with Sir Richard Branson a couple of years ago over lunch in Paris and we were talking about The Elders, an independent body of global leaders working together for human rights and peace founded by the leader of leaders – Nelson Mandela. As an Irishman half the time I meet people and when I tell them I am Irish they either offer up their version of an Irish accent or someone Irish that they know – everyone knows the Irish – the good, the bad and the ugly. No surprises then when Richard Branson, who recently took President Obama kite surfing at his home on Necker Island, mentions friends like “Mary Robinson” Former President of Ireland, I think I was 10 yrs old deep among a mostly farming community and warmed by a fickle mob when she visited my village.

 

Ireland’s 1st female President and UN High Commissioner, Mary Robinson, is much loved at home and across the world for her leadership on issues such as climate change and poverty to mention a few. That diversity has helped changed the face of an Ireland wrapped for centuries in the chains of the Vatican and, just like the soviet communism here in Eastern Europe, it takes decades maybe a generation or three to see the back of it until it finally and very thankfully evaporates. Ireland has gone on to be a country of firsts with a smoking ban, same sex marriage, etc.  Roll back just 20 years and its hard to believe the speed of change and the promise of more positive changes to come … despite the hardships of the small guy paying for the big guys mistakes in the last recession … and a looming Brexit.

 

Why the story?

 

The above and more is why we at HRN have decided that despite past efforts, 2017 is our year to celebrate gender diversity. Our production team did such an amazing job of our recent Paris show with our 2nd Women in Leadership and Tech session; it proved a huge source of inspiration and sent attendees home with a glowing feel-good factor – we watched the social activity continue for weeks afterwards.

 

Today in 2017 the contract is different and there is movement and momentum on diversity. When Peter Russell and I started researching on the future of work – specifically the fields of Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Change and HR just over 10 years ago – requiring quota’s of 40% women on the boards of organisations in Norway had just begun.  As we look back over that 10 year period we have seen most of our then clients go from strength to strength – DNV, Statoil, Norsk Hydro etc. Since 2008 most of Europe has started to follow the Scandinavian model, but surprisingly the US is still behind the curve on this as evidenced in Fortune companies – reliable sources put the number of women on boards at 13-15% and CEOs at 5%, yet the workforce is made up of 45% women.  Also you may have noticed we have some great ambassadors on the male side of our community championing this – Thomas Otter and Vivek Wadwa.

So when we sat down as team at end of last year we identified “2 biggies” that need more attention, the Global Leadership Crisis and Gender Diversity. We have decided that we would lead by example on our own events by having quotas in the hope and expectation of helping to bring about positive change. In covering both topics, I’m truly delighted to announce that Arianna Huffington will Keynote at HR Tech World!

 

Arianna Huffington has, over the last decade, consistently featured in Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and she has agreed to join us one of our 2 Main Stages in Amsterdam this October! Yes you heard that correctly: Arianna Huffington and not one but two giant stages! The intellectual capital and inspiration should benefit all – and I’d like to offer special thanks and big respect to our lead partners Cornerstone, SAP SuccessFactors, Workday, Avature, CrossKnowledge, Benify, IBM, and Talentsoft who continue to get behind us and allow us to grow the show year on year.

 

The Huffington Post founder discusses the sea change in politics, leadership, warns against the dangers of fake news and the phenomenon’s power to influence history and, her view, that those in power must move from being passive to active. Arianna also speaks about her belief in the importance of well-being and its impact on leadership; a belief which underpinned her decision to sell the Huffington Post to AOL roughly a decade ago and recently begin Thrive Global, a business which focuses on health and wellness.

 

She said in a statement: “When I decided to create Thrive Global, I thought it would be possible to build a startup and continue as editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. Today, it’s clear that was an illusion. As Thrive Global moved from an idea to a reality, with investors, staff, and offices, it became clear to me that I simply couldn’t do justice to both companies.”

 

In a memo to staff, Arianna said she had “become more and more passionate – okay, obsessed – with burnout and stress and how we can reduce their impact on our lives”.  Last year she decided to leave her namesake business the Huffington Post to start a new company called Thrive Global, taking aim at rectifying the chronic stress and burnout that has become standard in many industries.

 

The change wasn’t out of left field; Huffington has previously written on the subject of work-life balance in her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. Her new venture is motivated by the desire for a deeper understanding of the relationship between productivity and well-being:

 

I work at both my home and the Thrive Global offices. At home, my work area is often a dining table or couch. At our offices, all the desks can be adjusted to become standing desks, and we also have a treadmill desk and a nap pod.

 

It isn’t an everyday time-saver, but it’s something I’ve done a few times, the first when I turned 40. And that’s to do a kind of audit of your long-term to-do list. We all have these projects piling up on our on long-term to-do lists, and even when we’re not thinking of them everyday, we know they’re there. And the ever-increasing weight of them has a psychological cost — they don’t live rent-free in our minds and they take up a lot of space, draining our energy and diffusing our attention. It’s like paying for storage for things you’ll never use.

 

So what I did in my life-audit was to “complete” these projects simply by dropping them, which was very liberating. So if what you need to get rid of them is to give them a “done” checkmark, then check them off! It was very liberating to realise I could “complete” a project by simply dropping it — by eliminating it from my to-do list. That’s how I completed learning German and becoming a good skier and learning to cook and a host of other projects that now no longer have a claim on my attention.

 

I turn 40 this year and feel that kind of “life audit” coming on, so I’m more excited than ever before as our flagship show shapes up for what promises to be a very different look and feel to anything we have created previously.

 

See you in Amsterdam! Marc.