Courage is the greatest measure of a leader and young people should not be afraid to “go against the flow” when acting on their convictions, the Commonwealth Secretary-General has said.
Secretary-General Patricia Scotland was addressing participants in the Future Global Leaders’ Programme, organised by Standard Chartered Bank in partnership with the University of Oxford Saïd Business School, who were visiting Commonwealth headquarters at Marlborough House in London.
The engagement built on Commonwealth commitment to empower young people and open up opportunities for them, with 60 per cent of the combined population of its member countries being under the age of 30.
Asked what leaderships qualities she most admires, the Secretary-General said courage was number one.
She responded: “You must have experience, knowledge and understanding of empirical data to be able to craft your path, but what you really need is the courage to pursue it at times when others doubt you.
“To innovate, to do something radically different, you have to break a mould, you have to go down a new path. Most people in business, public life, art or music who have achieved something new will have been told that they are mad or crazy’.
“I admire those who have the independence to really believe in what they are doing, and have the courage to go against the flow.”
Secretary-General Scotland said listening, having emotional intelligence and choosing a team that has a multiplicity of talents are other vital components of great leadership.
She added: “It is not about yourself but about what you can do to make the world a better place.
One of the young people present, Jet Woo, 20, from Malaysia, said the Commonwealth was a good example when learning about leadership.
He said: “It brings together leaders from all over the world, and you are able to understand the perspectives of various people of different countries and the culture behind it. I think it’s really important we are able to communicate and bring all the knowledge together.”
The Future Global Leaders’ Programme started in 2015, bringing together young people from different countries for a week-long programme aimed at helping participants hone their skills in leadership, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, sustainability and communication.
It includes seminars and workshops designed to prepare the next generation for future leadership positions in family businesses.
Richard Pattle, senior advisor to Standard Chartered Private Bank, who led the event, said: “From the very first year we have exposed participants to the Commonwealth because not only is there a huge overlap between the Commonwealth and Standard Charted, but also there are very many leaders in Commonwealth countries who they can learn from.”
He added: “One of our key pillars is sustainability, and now the Sustainable Development Goals are really critical to their own businesses and how they steer their families’ fortunes in future.”
He said he has seen the “amazing force for good” the Commonwealth can be, so “that was one of the inspirations when this programme first started to expose participants not only to the Secretary-General but also Commonwealth institutions.”