Guest column

Want to become a better leader? Take more chances

Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Phil Noelting founded Qwalify in 2010, conceiving the concept at Babson College, where he graduated with a focus on entrepreneurship and global marketing (Gerry Mayer-Rohrmoser)

We live in a networked world, and you aren’t invited unless you take chances and explore it. It’s no longer about who you know, it’s about what you want and being smart about getting it.

Rather than digging through your network for opportunities, technology allows us to create and access networked opportunities. Whether searching for someone on Linkedin, attending a Meetup, or answering a question on Quora, networked opportunities are created through genuine alignment of interests and clear communication.

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Without taking a chance, these conversations never happen, thus relationships are never started, and in turn, opportunities never arise. Life is about taking chances.

I took a chance recently, and put together a video for a global contest I had heard about. I had entered the essay contest the prior year and placed in top 10, so I decided to try my hand at a video. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun to learn about the complexities of making a three-minute video that still ‘packed some punch.’

Titled ‘Simple Significance,’ the video urged companies to think about their employer brand in order to help them build a productive, engaged team. It turns out the message resonated. After over 3,400 voters, with many voting multiple times, the video came first worldwide.

Where did taking this chance lead me? To Vienna at the Global Peter Drucker Forum (GPDF), that’s where; flight and airfare paid, and a seat on a panel during one of the sessions. The GPDF is an annual get-together of the world’s thought-leaders in management, designed to share best practices and recommendations for the coming years. For the sake of context, consider this event the ‘World Economic Forum’ for management. Luckily, they also extend the Forum to winners of their annual challenges, both in the essay and video categories, which was my way in.

At the Forum, I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with fellow Canadians like Don Tapscott, Roger Martin and Dan Pontefract, as well as other inspiring folks like Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, and Rick Goings, CEO of Tupperware Brands. It was enlightening to hear them all speak of their driving passions and the values they instill in their teams and businesses every day. This year’s theme was Managing Complexities, with over 24 speakers offering unique insights into topics such as the changing structure of networks, creating a flat organization, building a culture of innovation and growth, and the future of business, government and education.

All the speakers understood the importance of people and actually acting in a manner that makes them their number one asset. Mr. Brown spoke of the power of community with one of their initiatives, OpenIDEO.com, which allows anyone to communicate, brainstorm, help and learn from each other. Don Tapscott delighted us with a display of a murmuration, with thousands of birds flying in unison as if programmed as a group.

Innately, we are creatures of community: with the right alignment, we are all stronger, more confident, more creative and, generally, more able together. Even the Forum itself was a harmonious display of networked empowerment, with each speaker fluidly building on each other’s insights to make the cumulative message stronger, more vibrant and real.

A manager’s worth is no longer measured by their decision-making power, but instead their ability to empower, to act as the catalyst for individual growth, innovative freedom and overall alignment with all employees and prospects. Networked empowerment is a hugely complex goal and there is no ‘right’ way of achieving it, but the Forum shed light on living examples of what can happen when the message is genuine and the voice is clear.

These leaders took a chance, and each created, implemented and grew a culture that now lives far beyond them, and has empowered thousands to follow suit. That is networked empowerment, and the Drucker Forum was oozing with it.

Leading in today’s world is different. It’s about taking chances, and taking them regularly. Sometimes they lead to networked opportunities, which, through genuine alignment of interests and clear communication, can lead to true networked empowerment. I never could have imagined that a three-minute video could open up a new world of contacts, friends, clients, potential partners and speaking opportunities.

To think… this whirlwind adventure was all because of a “why not?” moment.

Phil Noelting founded Qwalify in 2010, conceiving the concept at Babson College, where he graduated with a focus on entrepreneurship and global marketing. Having been involved in a number of startups prior, he understands what it means to ‘foster a culture’ rather than just ‘hire a team,’ and that resonates each time he speaks about Qwalify to clients or audiences of varying sizes. He currently resides in Waterloo, Ont.

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