The Global Context of Leadership

CEO Panel Discussion: The Global Context of Leadership

Three top CEOs from The Diversity Council, Martin Andre Dittmer, CEO and Managing Partner at Gorrissen Federspiel; Marianne Dahl, CEO at Microsoft and Morten Hübbe, CEO at Tryg, participated in a panel to discuss being ‘drivers of change’ at the Advanced Leadership Program for Women 2019.

The first day of the Advanced Leadership Program for Women provided a deep-dive on ‘21st Century Leadership’ by business thought-leader and author, Peter Fisk.  As well as speaking about the new powers and disruptive technologies that are transforming the world of work, Fisk delivered an accelerated run-down the world’s 100 most inspiring companies. After a full day of studying best practise cases in the abstract, the top female talents on the program were joined by Pilita Clark, an Associate Editor at the Financial Times, who facilitated a panel with three CEOs who implement the strategic leadership approaches that had been discussed during the day. These top leaders were: Martin Andre Dittmer, CEO and Managing Partner at Gorrissen Federspiel; Marianne Dahl, CEO at Microsoft and Morten Hübbe, CEO at Tryg.

As CEOs of some of Denmark’s largest publicly-held companies, dependant on healthy profit margins and KPIs, the CEOs all noted the importance of adopting a growth mindset in this time of technology-driven transformation, and the threat of insurgent companies, whose private status means they have more freedom to disrupt and innovate.  

One such company is Lemonade, a tech firm transforming the insurance landscape. Morten Hübbe observed that their staff-less model means they can work much faster and much cheaper, and giants of the industry, such as Tryg, cannot get complacent about the competition they pose.

One initiative that has recently been implemented at Tryg to encourage innovative thinking is inviting 200 people and 35 start-ups to share their work space. This unconventional approach has empowered the company to disrupt itself from within and, as a result, Tryg is now the largest player in insuring in the sharing economy in Denmark. While high risk is usually incompatible with insurance, it is vital in order to move faster than the accelerating competitors.

Refusing to get complacent is a sentiment shared by Microsoft CEO, Marianne Dahl, who recounted a 2007 Forbes front cover titled: ‘Nokia One Billion Customers: Can anyone catch the cell phone king?’ Within just eight years, however, the company was bought and essentially shut down by Microsoft. Even industry giants can be swallowed, and it is this threat that drives Dahl to keep developing. In technology, the past is the worst indicator of the future and with this in mind, Dahl plans to double their size in four years and transform two thirds of the revenue stream.

In the legal sector, legacy is key, and can seem to impede any rapid progress. Martin Andre Dittmer observed that in Gorrissen Federspiel, they celebrate the fact that they stand on 150 years of history, but for a human industry, AI represents a sizeable threat. Dittmer shared with the panel various initiatives Gorrissen Federspiel has introduced to counteract this, including a digitalisation committee, start-up competition for free legal help called ‘Sunburst’, renting of legal services in the gig economy and also a specific course on product development for managers.

Adapting to the future workplace is not limited to strategic developments; appealing to millennials will also demand that companies embrace a more sustainable and flexible model. In the new corporate landscape, the war for talents is almost as fierce as the war for customers. Morten Hübbe observes that, “Millennials motivated by purpose, they want to feel in tune with the leader’s views”. Rather than big corporates or big pay checks, they want to work somewhere worthwhile.

Finally, the conversation turned to women in leadership, and specifically what was needed to get more women in management. This topic is at the heart of the Advanced Leadership Program for Women, which has been designed to strengthen the talent pipeline and further develop the capabilities of top female talents over the 4 modules of the course.

Marianne Dahl noted that while global trends can be encouraging, in Denmark, the representation of women in boards and CEOs dropped 6.6% in 2018. Relative to its Nordic neighbours, Denmark’s position is only getting worse. This talent drain occurs at two key moments: around the time of having a second child and in the early forties, when female leaders begin to feel like outsiders, given their limited numbers at the top: not one of the executive boys’ club, but alienated from female co-workers too.

Yet, even if the numbers are moving in the wrong direction, the need for more women in leadership is only increasing. As technology replaces mundane tasks, businesses are becoming more dependent on the human skills of their employees: their intuition, imagination and innovation.

Morten Hübbe observed that this offers a unique opportunity to answer the more holistic leadership challenge. Broadly, women are better at identifying the ‘why’, while men are more data driven. In Tryg, they are encouraging rotation schemes to build broader leadership profiles amongst their top talents while also creating a flexible work culture that works with family.

When approaching the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, new problems require new models for new solutions. This proactive approach is also applicable when it comes to talent development – in a world where there are more CEOs called John than women, it is time to disrupt outdated business practises and embrace the diversity of thought and approach that will ensure businesses thrive.

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