How Grand Challenges, AI, and Co-Leadership Are Shaping Leadership?

How Grand Challenges, AI, and Co-Leadership Are Shaping Leadership?

Leadership is in transition. At Boardman’s English-language event ”Leadership in Change – Interaction Between Power and Responsibility,” we focused on examining leadership changes from three different perspectives. The themes covered grand challenges, AI, co-leadership, and how these factors are transforming leadership.

The speakers included Laura Vargas, CEO and Founder of Leading with Purpose, Eeva Raita, CSO of Futurice, Mikael Rautanen, Founder and CEO of Inderes, and Kaj Hagros, Chairman of the Board at Inderes.

The event was moderated by was moderated by Olli Holmström, CEO of Deaconess Foundation and a Boardman Partner.

The event was held on-site at the Deaconess Foundation in Helsinki and was moderated by Olli Holmström, CEO of Deaconess Foundation and a Boardman Partner.

This event was a joint meeting of Boardman’s Finnish Alumni and Boardman’s English-language membership program, ”Boardman Membership”. 70 active participants attended the event.

Laura Vargas: Our Imperative as Leaders is to Lead Beyond Shareholder-Centricity

The Finnish Companies Act states that a company’s purpose is to generate profits for its shareholders unless otherwise provided in the articles of association. Laura Vargas from Leading with Purpose challenged the attendees to think beyond this.

She said that merely generating profit for shareholders is not enough. In a world facing overconsumption, global warming, extreme poverty, hunger, and water scarcity, we must save the planet. Vargas believes that we must change the way we lead to save our planet.

Laura Vargas believes that we must change the way we lead to save our planet.

She explained that leadership can become more sustainable with a purpose-driven leadership practice that goes beyond shareholder centricity and embraces accountability that cannot be delegated. This means leading through a long-term orientation, going beyond quarterly results. When company leadership and boards aim to think beyond the quarter, it’s essential to ask themselves questions such as:

  • How does this idea/solution/product/service go beyond creating shareholder value?
  • How do we include other perspectives?
  • How do we consider interdependence, complexity, and uncertainty today and tomorrow?

This long-term orientation should also be reflected in decision-making.

Vargas mentioned that incorporating a regenerative mindset into the discussions of management teams and boards is an essential aspect of making leadership more sustainable.

By a regenerative mindset, she means a way of thinking that sees the world as built around reciprocal and co-evolutionary relationships to lead regenerative businesses that enhance and thrive through the health of the social-ecological system in a co-evolutionary process. A regenerative mindset requires leaders to think and act holistically, practice continuous reflection and learning, engage in dynamic collaboration, and embrace accountability.

She closed with a call to action: let’s go beyond the basics of shareholder centricity as we cannot delegate our accountability in the face of the Grand Challenges.

Eeva Raita: With the Help of AI, You Make Work Life More Humane

Eeva Raita from Futurice discussed AI and how it is revolutionizing leadership. She said one of the most significant benefits AI brings to leaders is the ability to access up-to-date data from various company departments effortlessly.

This enables better decision-making since the data underpinning decisions is not just based on one department’s input, which often relies on historical data. It also frees up employees’ time for new types of tasks.

Eeva Raita said one of the most significant benefits AI brings to leaders is the ability to access up-to-date data from various company departments effortlessly.

Raita talked about how each of us will eventually have to manage our own personal virtual assistants. For leaders, this means they can ask AI questions they previously had to ask multiple people, saving employees’ time and providing instant answers from virtual assistants.

Raita encouraged leaders to set aside time to explore the possibilities of AI. The development in AI over the next three years will be astonishing. Therefore, leaders cannot afford to ignore AI while staying busy with other tasks. She acknowledged that the change AI brings will likely scare many, but it cannot be overlooked.

AI will permeate all company departments, transforming how work is done in customer service, sales, marketing, strategy, legal departments, HR, and IT.

Mikael Rautanen & Kaj Hagros: Distributed Leadership Can Unleash Creative Potential, Agility, and Execution Speed

Mikael Rautanen and Kaj Hagros from Inderes spoke about co-leadership. Rautanen shared that when Inderes grew to about 20 employees, they started behaving like a ”real company,” and he tried to be a ”real CEO”. However, he soon realized that his days were filled with decisions and administrative tasks, pushing him to the brink of burnout.

He discussed the matter with Hagros, who was already the Chairman of the Board at Inderes. Together, they began to reshape Inderes’ leadership model towards shared leadership. A significant book on this journey was Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations.

When Mikael Rautanen realized that his days as an CEO were filled with decisions and administrative tasks, pushing him to the brink of burnout, he and Kaj Hagros began to reshape Inderes’ leadership model towards shared leadership.

Rautanen explained that the foundation of co-leadership is trust. Today, Inderes employs 120 people, and he believes each one is a trustworthy expert capable of making decisions, taking responsibility for those decisions, and wanting the best for Inderes.

In co-leadership, decision-making is distributed throughout the organization, and decisions do not come in a traditional top-down manner from the CEO. His role as CEO is to be the ”happiness officer,” ensuring employees are well and have the tools to perform their work effectively.

As a very simplified example, Rautanen shared that the company has not defined the price range for computer monitors that employees can purchase for themselves. When one employee bought an expensive monitor, someone asked if such a definition should be made. Rautanen replied negatively. He believed and trusted that the employee who bought the expensive monitor made the decision as a trustworthy expert capable of making decisions, taking responsibility for them, and wanting the best for Inderes.

Several questions were presented during the event, and the speakers engaged in active discussions with the audience. In the picture, the Chair of the Alumni Board, Tarja Tikkanen, raises a question.

Hagros explained that to enable Inderes’ employees to make decisions, they are involved in the company’s strategy process and invited to board meetings. Additionally, all company documents are open, except for those with a legal confidentiality requirement.

Rautanen and Hagros believe that co-leadership creates more agile companies, fosters employees’ ideas and reduces the pressure on top management.

Text and pictures: Karoliina Kuhalampi