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Successful leadership embraces diversity and difference

·Yahoo Finance Editor In Chief Australia
·4-min read
Mark Nielson CEO of Talent International
Mark Nielson CEO of Talent International (Source: provided)

As the working world grapples with the fallout from COVID and for many industries a radical change in how we work, leadership styles have had to change too.

Talent Global CEO Mark Nielsen joins Yahoo Finance Australia’s editor in chief, Kate Browne, to discuss the development of the "Leaders Building a Better World of Work" an initiative that highlights the work of inspirational leaders from organisations in Australia and overseas.

What are the key attributes you have noticed that make a great leader today?

“I think it’s important to be vulnerable, authentic and to be yourself. It’s also key to be transparent and not be scared about getting involved and interacting with your team. I’ve seen some leaders who are scared about doing that, but what I’ve observed is that, by being authentic and getting involved, you’re not going to lose respect from your people, you are actually going to gain it.

“Transparency is vital, if you want respect as a leader, don’t be afraid to put it all out there. If you do, you will get it back from the people you lead and that is invaluable.”

How did you choose the leaders featured in the report?

“Our selection was based on people who are doing things differently as leaders and those who've … had real life experiences and are diverse.

“If you haven't had real life experiences, it's very difficult to be able to really appreciate what it takes to implement so many of the qualities required to be a good leader. If you've only had a life of entitlement and privilege, you don't really know what it's like to not have that, so then it’s very hard to lead a team that come from diverse lives and experiences.”

What defines a great workplace in 2022?

“Many people feel a real sense of purpose through their work so, especially during and after the changes over the pandemic, it’s very important to be clear on that purpose so that the people in your organisation feel that they are really part of it and not just working from paycheque to paycheque.

“If you think about the way most of us operate, we have our work, our social lives, our personal lives, our family, all that sort of stuff, and then - thanks to COVID and lockdowns - all of this was moulded together very quickly. For those who were lucky enough to be able to see their friends and families, this might have been easier. On the other hand, some people were very isolated and work was one of their main contact points so maintaining a purpose is key.”

What have you observed about the shift in how we work and lead since COVID?

“COVID demonstrated that we could all embrace change and do it at pace. Increased flexibility and transparency are two of the major positives that have come out of this time and have made a huge change to how many people work now.

“From a leadership point of view, there was a real need to trust that people do their work, irrespective of where they are, and that's been another good thing to have come out of this time.

“Embracing change and accepting failure as a way of learning too. During COVID everybody had to fail and learn and grow so I think, in some ways, that fear has been taken away”.

How important is diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace?

“Diversity and equality is vital. We must accept people from different cultures, genders, neurodiversity and sexuality as part of the workplace.

“A successful organisation has a strong DNA and, by that, I mean diversity. It’s critical to have those differences in perspective and for those voices to be heard too. It’s not enough to have those people in your organisation, you need them to feel included and ensure that their perspective is heard. If you only have a few dominant voices at the table, you won’t get the perspective or the value of what other people with different backgrounds and experiences have to say and that diversity is so important to all organisations.”

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