It is a pleasure to be writing from the exciting St Gallen Symposium today here in Switzerland.
The Symposium is a global gathering of 600 leaders of today and 200 specially selected Leaders of Tomorrow. I am honoured to be one of 100 hand picked Leaders of Tomorrow contributing my ideas and thoughts on how leadership should transform. It is organised by the International Students Committee, a team of students from St Gallen University.
For almost five decades it has been a pioneering forum for debate on management, politics and civil society.
For the past few days entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists and professionals have joined the conference to debate "Growth - the good, the bad and the ugly."
I spent yesterday cruising around Austria, Germany and Switzerland on a boat with some of the finest young minds from across the world debating on the future of innovation, the new workforce and what millennials want from their work in the future. We joined the likes of Accenture in debating what the future of work should look like - what kind of impact do the next generation want to make? Today and into the weekend illustrious leaders will share their thoughts on growth and the future. We have already heard from the likes of Professor Tim Jackson from Surrey University, The European Trade Union Confederation, David De Rothschild (chairman of Nestle) and Cesar Purisima from the Philippine Department of Finance.
For me, healthy debate on how leadership should look and manifest itself in the future is a good thing. As long as these lessons are learned and practice can be fully shaped by such views as those at this Symposium.
It is clear to me that leadership does need to evolve and growth in the future needs to become sustainable. Since the recession my impression is that we have obsessed over entrepreneurship, starting up businesses fast and driving investment. All this talk of a Northern Powerhouse, I’m still not sure what exactly that entails. It is pleasing to hear the plans for Meadowhall’s continued expansion this week – putting Sheffield on the world stage for retail. In perhaps five or ten years, will investment in initiatives like HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse have led to an increase in jobs, a decrease in inequality and greater quality of life? Key takeaways from this conference so far for me include a focus on sustainable investment, ethical impact, sharpening our focus on reporting the impact of investment and focusing on meaningful growth which solves some of the biggest challenges. Without jobs and a decent standard of living, how will we ever progress? Should we keep measuring GDP growth and employment rates, I feel there is bouyancy in these measures and we need to make a moral case for growth continually through continual pragmatic thinking and a wide variety involvement, not least from the young generation in shaping the future of their world. We need to lay the foundation for the enterprise of tomorrow and this can only happen in conjunction with the leaders of tomorrow - the students, parents, entrepreneurs and young people of today need to get involved in the debate and use their voices to shape the debate which will affect their future. Back home in Sheffield we have lots of examples of leadership in practice – not least our young advisors who contribute to developing strategies and policy which reflects the needs of the next generation. We also have a burst of enterprise activity from our colleges and both Universities. But are our young generation really, truly integrated in decision making which will impact on their futures?
That is why I am so grateful to be able to represent the UK and its young people and young entrepreneurs this week. No doubt there will be more healthy debates to come over the next few days so do keep a lookout on Twitter using #debategrowth and share your thoughts.