Adaptable Leadership – Takeaways from 2014 Corporate Citizenship Conference

by Nikki Korn

Although no golden statues were given out, there was plenty of strong, consistent advice for leaders in the citizenship field. The 2014 Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship conference, held at the site of the annual Golden Globe Awards, served up the latest trends, insights, and how-to information about adaptable leadership. Here are few key takeaways:

Prioritize and Focus
There was an important message from Jay Rasulo, CFO of the Walt Disney Company and the company’s CSR strategy leader. “A few years ago our research showed that consumers did not know what we were doing in this arena — we were generous in spirit but poor in focus.” From that point on, Disney understandably revamped their strategy to have prioritized issue areas and a fresh approach applying their brands and expertise to create competitive advantage. This was not a surprise for most in the crowd, yet everyone was agreeing to how difficult it is for many companies to build a focused strategy and to stick with it.

Act Local
“Act local” came through loud and clear as a theme throughout the conference. We heard from Rajesh Subramaniam, Fed Ex’s EVP of Global Strategy and Marketing, who spoke about his work across the globe and his role as a leader “to be on the street observing and listening to his teams, consumers, and customers.” The conversations consistently came back to embracing the knowledge of colleague and partner perspectives when determining city, market or country specific strategies. Sounds simple, but takes energy, focus and leadership to do this well. No matter if you’re driving philanthropic giving, employee engagement or cause marketing…the decision-making and ultimate strategy needs to be locally relevant to have the greatest impact.

Lead from Every Seat
Whether you’re selling in ideas to your CEO; implementing a strategic philanthropy effort; or mobilizing your team to execute skills-based volunteerism, the magic happens when the culture empowers everyone to lead. We heard from Andy Boynton, Dean of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, about what makes a great or “virtuoso team.” My favorite insight is that we all need to have the confidence to speak up; apply our expertise; and contribute to the daily problem-solving, creativity and execution details that our roles demand. This only happens when leaders empower and trust their team. As Dean Boynton said, “strong leaders enable their talent to do great things.” Everyone got it.

Working together in this rapidly evolving field, we must empower each other us to listen, analyze, and voice our opinions. So go for it… the next time you’re in a meeting or on a call and want to build on; challenge or change a plan…speak up, take action and embrace the ride.

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