Carina Bauer

Photo: IMEX Group

(Female) Leadership in a crisis: From the desk of Carina Bauer, CEO IMEX Group.

What is leadership anyway?

When I first took over as CEO of the IMEX Group back in 2009 I spent a long time thinking about whether I was a leader or just a good manager. What’s the difference anyway? Can you become a leader or are you born that way? Do you need to be loud, filled with bravado and false optimism; or can you lead quietly, slowly and steadily?

Over the years I’ve realised that true leadership needs to come from deep within yourself. You can’t be a leader in anyone else’s image – you must be authentic, true and from the heart – or you will be found out. This is an important lesson for women, because so many of our historical role models are men and they tend to lead in a very different way to women.

True leadership is about conviction and clarity – offering certainty of direction in a complex and ever-changing environment and providing a vision that is at once achievable, challenging and motivating.

If nothing else, the past year been a masterclass of lessons in leadership. We have seen the UK’s Boris Johnson prevaricating– falling back on his habit of last-minute decision making that might work in a negotiation, but not nearly so well in a pandemic. Germany’s Merkel, the scientist –making fact-based decisions and adjusting regularly in line with the science. America’s Trump, the bully – hoping that his sheer force of personality could make a pandemic disappear. And, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern – calm, articulate and prepared to make early, tough calls based on facts not politics.

Ardern is celebrated, not only for her success, but for her clarity of vision. I have no doubt that there were many in New Zealand last March who did not agree with her policy of locking the borders. She stuck to her personal conviction that her job as leader, above all else, was the safety and security of her people. And, even though the downsides were significant, she stuck to her course.

And there we have it. Leadership is not about taking the easiest course or the most popular decisions. It’s not about telling people that everything will be ok if you just wish hard enough. It’s about truth, honesty, making tough decisions, getting into the trenches with your team when they need you and providing a shining light for your vision. It’s about always looking forward, not having regrets, being humble enough to learn from your mistakes and helping others to develop with you and be their best.

Successful leaders aren’t a fully formed product - effective leadership is the result of hard work, hurdles, practice and learning. You build resilience over time and work to inspire this in others – and resilience is certainly something we’ve all had to draw on over this past year.

IMEX 2021 cancellation

It is with regret that we announce the cancellation of IMEX in Frankfurt 2021, due to take place at Messe Frankfurt from 25 – 27 May. Read the full announcement here.

I read once that leaders need to surround themselves with people better than themselves. I’m certainly lucky that in the IMEX team we have experts and specialists in so many fields doing jobs that I could never hope to do as well. I rely on them and they rely on me. I will always be there for them – in the hard times and the best of times.

Carina Bauer

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