Navigating Leadership in Times of Change

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Sullivan & Stanley recently hosted an exclusive CEO event, culminating a series of intimate dinners throughout the year. This gathering brought together ten senior leaders, each an expert in their respective industries. They delved into the complexities and challenges of modern leadership, especially during times of unprecedented change.


Instant Intimacy in Unprecedented Times 

One notable aspect of the evening was the instant intimacy established among these leaders, many of whom were meeting for the first time. This immediate connection underscored a vital lesson: in the face of uncertainty, shared experiences and challenges can create deep bonds, even among strangers.


Embracing Modern Leadership Attributes

 The discussions evolved around the concept that leadership in chaotic times is not about turning chaos into un-chaos, but rather understanding and navigating through the different facets of chaos. The group explored the ideas of “negative chaos” and “positive chaos,” recognising that both can be catalysts for growth and innovation. This insight was pivotal in discussing how modern leadership needs to embrace both strength and traditionally feminine attributes, such as vulnerability, active listening, empathy, and nuanced problem-solving, irrespective of the leader’s gender.


Vulnerability and Resilience: Twin Pillars of Leadership

The conversations often circled back to the twin pillars of vulnerability and resilience. Leaders shared their experiences in acknowledging their limitations and stepping back when necessary. This vulnerability, coupled with resilience, is essential in adapting to ongoing challenges like the pandemic and economic crises. A participant raised an important question on insight and balance: “How do you keep/get people focused, considering the divergence in the world?” This sparked a conversation about the importance of maintaining clarity of vision and purpose in a rapidly changing environment.


Cultivating Organisational DNA Amidst Disruption

A significant focus was on shaping organisational culture amidst disruptive change. Leaders discussed being architects of their organisations’ DNA, emphasising the importance of retaining core values while innovatively adapting to shifts in industry and customer needs. A topic around empowerment arose, leading to a discussion on whether the definition of success is in not wanting to be involved in the details, thereby empowering teams to take ownership.


Navigating Through Chaos with Insight and Balance

Key strategies discussed for steering organisations through chaos included embracing behavioural and business model changes, fostering readiness for transformation, and recovering and restructuring post-pandemic. Leaders shared insights on balancing energy regulation, understanding the necessity of both on-ground engagement and strategic boardroom planning.


Facing and Overcoming Challenges

The conversation naturally gravitated towards the myriad challenges leaders face, both internally and externally. From environmental threats to economic instability, the role of a leader is more demanding than ever. Yet, there was a unanimous agreement on the importance of focusing on one problem at a time and driving resilience through their teams.


Generational Sensitivity and Workplace Evolution

A key takeaway was the need for leaders to evolve with the younger workforce. This involves being informed and sensitive to issues like mental health, work-life balance, and creating an office environment that people are eager to be a part of.


Empowerment and Adaptability: The New Leadership Mantras

Empowering teams, driving resilience, and adapting under pressure were identified as critical skills for today’s leaders. The discussions highlighted the power of a strong executive team to share the load and bring focus, thereby enabling great achievements.


The evening concluded with a powerful message: Regardless of industry, company stage, or experience level, all leaders grapple with similar issues. This shared struggle underscores the value of a community where leaders can openly share concerns, learn from others’ experiences, and realise they are not alone in their journey.

This recent CEO event was more than a gathering; it was a convergence of minds and experiences, shaping the future of leadership. As we step into a world marked by uncertainty, the lessons shared will guide us in leading with resilience, empathy, and a renewed sense of purpose.



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Mairéad Philbin
Written by Mairéad Philbin
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