Business

Louise Macdonald: Compassion, grit and innovation will win the day in 2022

As we look to the start of 2022, I doubt there is much to be said in any review of the year that doesn’t run the risk of sounding like a cliché.

Words like challenging, resilience, unprecedented and overwhelm will no doubt feature in any reflection of 2021 as we continued to navigate Covid19 and its variants.

I’ve had an extra layer of reflection to contend with, as it has now been six months since I came into the role of national director of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland.

I took up post in June, over a year into the global pandemic. I remember how at that point – like many others – I had hope that we were just about emerging from it, and we could turn our attention to future resilience and recovery.

But now, the Omicron variant has reminded us that we’re certainly not out of the woods yet and that – once more – we need to dig deep to tackle its daily impacts; both professionally and personally.

The huge privilege of my role is that I get to meet extraordinary people from across Scotland – vastly talented and committed directors in companies of all sizes, in third sector organisations, public bodies and social enterprises.

There is no shortage of creativity and ingenuity in our part of the world.

And many of them were honoured at the Director of the Year awards in early December, where time and again our finalists and winners were praised for their grit, determination and innovation as they led their organisations – in communities across Scotland – through some of the greatest challenges they had ever faced, or were likely to face in the future.

Whether it was shifting manufacturing models; protecting their supply chain or taking bold steps to ensure those most in need continued to receive services, it was a long list of inspirational stories.

In every single category, there was overwhelming evidence of empathy, resilience and a desire to collaborate across the sectors on an unprecedented scale.

Our diverse shortlist of finalists and winners showed true leadership of the highest level in a whole range of contexts.

It is learning more about their stories that gives me hope when it feels like there is none on the darkest days, or when the latest headlines or social media spats make me despair.

There is no question the pandemic will leave many scars, and its impacts will have a long tail, some of which we may not have fully seen yet. But it is people in our communities the length and breadth of Scotland who will bring their skills and hard work to turn things around.

As we enter a new year, and the remainder of winter in Scotland, every day we will understand more about this variant. But we must also develop our thinking about future resilience as a nation and what is required.

There are many lessons to be learned from this experience – from how we mitigate the impact of the unexpected on business, to how to build infrastructure and remove silos across public services to support the most vulnerable in our communities.

I know that as I write there are many smart, compassionate minds exploring these questions through future scenario planning and modelling, and my plea is that it is a collaborative effort, with input from those who have been most affected and have valuable lived experience of the pandemic to share.

Listening, learning and moving forward with determination, compassion, grit and innovation are all key tenets of purposeful leadership. And it is the leaders who possess these qualities who will make the difference – in 2022 and beyond.

Louise Macdonald is national director of IoD Scotland

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