Leaders united on need for change

The lack of strong leaders in business and politics is one of the world’s biggest problems, according to former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev.

Speaking at the Leaders in London summit last week, Gorbachev said: “The [business] situation today is a serious cause for concern. It is a different world that requires a new vision.”

The former Nobel Peace Prize winner cited the challenges of terrorism, poverty and the impending environmental crisis as key factors affecting business and government. He said a good leader must manage these changes effectively.

“Those who assume the role of leader have to bear in mind that we are living in a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before,” said Gorbachev. “Now, one lifetime sees much more change in the face of civilisation.”

Former US president Bill Clinton also focused on the importance of change, during his speech to delegates.

“We need to change the future of the world,” he said.

Clinton stressed the huge challenge leaders faced in implementing change initiatives. “There is nothing as difficult as change,” he said. “It is important that leaders not only have good techniques and strategies, but that you know where you want to go.”

Clinton, who has been focusing on leadership development as part of his work at the William J Clinton Foundation, said anyone had the capacity to lead.

“I think leaders can be made, rather than born,” he said. “No one skill is needed to be a good leader. It could be anyone who understands what needs to be done.”

Clinton was not quite as pessimistic as Gorbachev on the future of the world economy. “On balance, I’m quite optimistic,” he said.

Head to head

How important is strategy?

“Our ability to develop strategy should determine the future.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet Union president

“People have intrinsic leadership skills so it’s about finding them the right opportunities.”
Allan Leighton, chairman, Royal Mail

Can you create a good leader?

“Successful leaders live the values of the company. So you’ve got to be different to stand out.”
Kjell A Nordstrom, business guru

“Good leaders aren’t born, they’re made.”
Bill Clinton, former US president

Should we worry about the future of business?

“Now is a very exciting time for business.”
Lou Gerstner, former IBM chairman

“We’re facing tremen-dous risks in business. Capitalism is the most destructive force.”
Marvin Zonis, professor, University of Chicago

Summit quotes

“Leaders are people that sense the way before others and can sense the right moment to act in business.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet Union president

“We need to create a world with more partners and fewer adversaries. We should be building institutional co-operation. If people work together
it is easier to follow all the rules.”
Bill Clinton, former US president

“The difference between a manager and a leader is very straightforward. Leaders make sure they do the right thing and managers make sure they do things right.”
Allan Leighton, chairman, Royal Mail

“People do what you inspect rather than what you expect.”
Lou Gerstner, former chief executive and chairman, IBM

“There is a tremendous resistance from people to change if things seem to be doing okay. A good leader is someone who can anticipate change and transform people’s mindsets.”
Marvin Zonis, professor of business, University of Chicago

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