2018 Theme: Fearless Leadership
The need for fearless leaders has never been greater. Disruption of business models. Shifting global trade. Massive movements of people across borders. Degradation of civic and political discourse. Heightened attention to harassment and discrimination. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Add to that advances in automation and artificial intelligence, major generational shifts in the workforce, and medical advances that heighten humanity’s powers to tinker with fate. How do you lead when you don’t know what’s around the corner? As employees and consumers encourage you to take a stand, how best to respond? When friends and neighbors challenge your core values, how best to engage? As changes impact you, your family, and those you love, how to maintain your moral compass? In a world of relentless pressure, how do you maintain a calm presence when you’re deeply anxious inside? How do you nurture and preserve your compassion and humanity?
Fearless Leadership Series
Calling It Like It Is
Are we dealing with “gender discrimination” or is it misogyny, pure and simple? Are we dealing with “racial tensions” or is it racism and hatred? Xenophobia. Homophobia. Classism. Why do we shy away from confronting the wrongs in this world? Don’t you have to name something before you can address it? What aspects of our society are just plain wrong and require fearless leaders to call it like it is?
Does Fearlessness Expire?
Young people are often fearless. Does this quality naturally diminish later in life? Or do relative success and maturity allow for the freedom and fearlessness to stop playing it safe? What are you afraid of? What holds you back from being fearless? A famous comic strip character once said, “I have met the enemy and he is us.” How do you cultivate fearlessness through all stages of life as you seemingly have more to lose and further to fall?
If We Were Really Fearless, We Would…
The world needs brave and courageous leaders. Yet too many talk about fearless leadership while too few actually practice it. If we were really serious, what specifically would we be doing right now? Why aren’t we? What keeps you from acting? Do you need to rethink your definition of risk in order to take bolder action?
Leading Against Corruption
How prevalent is corruption where you live and work? Do you tolerate it? Do you have guiding principles to help you navigate the gray? Will corruption always be a part of our society? How might you and other leaders break the cycle of corruption?
Learning to Adapt: How do you challenge and disrupt yourself?
Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” How are you learning to adapt to our new normal and how are you shaping it for good? Are you currently fighting any changes that you should be embracing? What exercises do you do to challenge your thinking and disrupt your understanding of the world? How do you make sure you’re not allowing yourself to become too comfortable or believing your own hype?
Redefining Crisis: Finding opportunity in the challenge
The Chinese word for “crisis” translates as "challenge and opportunity.” How can you learn to make the best out of the challenges you face as a leader? When have you turned a potentially disastrous scenario into a prosperous opportunity for your business? Are you facing challenges now that could be turned toward positive outcomes?
Resisting Cynicism: Fostering hope in yourself and others
Our personal values, our faith in others, and our trust in institutions seem to be tested on a daily basis. How do you resist becoming cynical? How do you preserve hope when barraged by a daily feed of alarming news and forecasts of changes to come? As a leader, how do you foster hope for your employees when you don’t know what’s around the corner? What are you teaching your children, nieces, and nephews about the need to remain hopeful and how they can infuse hope into the world?
Being Human in a Digital Age Series
Do No Evil: The use and abuse of you
With each click and keystroke, we communicate our preferences, private thoughts, and opinions. Should privacy be a human right? Companies are building digital data mines on each of us. How should this data be used? What are responsible limits? Do you trust companies to safeguard your personal data? Are you mindful about what you share? Might you be guilty of abusing what others share with you? Should governments have access to this data? Can private companies be trusted more that governments?
Not Quite Human: What’s the future of human and A.I. coexistence?
They drive us. They inform us. They help us to be productive at work and home. That’s just the start of the artificial intelligence (A.I.) revolution. New forms of A.I. are being developing every day – and they’re becoming more human in sound, appearance, and interaction with each iteration. Should they be? As our interactions with A.I. continue to grow, is there a line we should draw to prevent these machines from becoming “too human?” Why? What’s the risk? And as children grow up with artificial intelligence as their digital playmates, are they able to understand the distinction between interacting with a human versus a machine? Is there a risk that their interactions with humans might become too machine-like while their trust in machines pulls them from human-to-human connections? Is this all simply inevitable? What leadership is needed here?
Business Leadership Series
Corporate Board Leadership: Staying relevant in an age of rapid change
With so much changing in the world, how do you stay current to ensure that the business on whose board you serve can navigate challenges effectively? What trends and changes are you most focused on? Disruptive business start-ups? Tech advancements? Shifting demographics in your consumer or employee base? Greater demands for gender parity in management? What's the best way for a board to stay informed and ahead of the curve?
David and Goliath: Leadership lessons from beating the odds
In the Old Testament, David the Shepherd took on the giant warrior Goliath – and won. Have you ever taken on a battle against all the odds? What made you believe that it was worth it when the odds were against you? Did you win? If so, what worked in your favor? Did you consider what would happen if you lost? If you lost, what lessons did you learn? And would you fight again?
Disruptive Innovation: Keeping your business ahead of the curve
Alibaba. Netflix. Tencent. Brandless. Warby Parker. Ctrip. Waze. Lyft. Airbnb. Businesses everywhere are shaking up markets and entire industries, as they empower consumers in ways that are disruptive to legacy business models. What are the downsides to these new business models? Are there unintended consequences and whose responsibility is it to find solutions caused by this disruption? As you look ahead, what threats are you most concerned about for your business? Have you found a way to embrace this change and take advantage of the opportunity?
Financial Makeover: How the finance industry can regain public trust
The finance industry is critical to the functioning of the global economy. The breadth and sophistication of the system is remarkable and many of the people are bright, well-meaning professionals. Yet, the finance sector is widely distrusted. Why is this? What can be done to change both the reality and public perception of the industry? As more players in the industry talk about shifting their mindset, what does this mean in practice?
Moral Courage: Business leaders taking a stand
In recent years, business leaders have stepped up and added their voices to civic debates ranging from LGBT and women’s rights, to environmental and immigrant worker protections. After decades of putting profits before principled positions, why are more business leaders speaking out publicly now? Has this fearlessness always existed in private settings or is this a new rise of fearlessness? As consumers and employees encourage you to take a stand, what’s the best way to respond? What risks do you consider and how do you garner the moral courage to use your company platform to take a stand? Ultimately, what is the responsibility and role of business leaders to shape the good society? If it goes beyond employment and making money, then how far beyond? Is there a dark side to companies deciding what is “right?”
Coexistence Leadership Series
Appalling Silence: Bystanders and the silent majority
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait.’” There are countless examples of this happening today. Addressing the refugee crisis in Syria. Solving gender inequality in the workplace. Tackling acute and pervasive malnutrition. Do you find that you were or might still be part of the silent majority? What’s holding you back from taking a stand? When do you find yourself saying, “Wait?” Do you wait because of the “cost” of being fearless? Is it more difficult to be a fearless leader for some issues — such as race, ethnicity, and gender — than it is for other issues? Why?
Creating a World Without Patriarchy
In March 2017, a bronze sculpture was erected on Wall Street. The “Fearless Girl” looks into the eyes of the iconic Charging Bull of the financial district. “Know the power of women in leadership,” she says. From cradle to grave, there are subtle and overt aspects of patriarchy at home, at work, on screens, in classrooms, and in nearly every aspect of society. What does the power of women in leadership look like? How do we get there? Are we just making incremental progress within a patriarchal system, rather than dismantling the system altogether? How are you the “fearless girl?” How are you using your business platform to do this on a larger scale? Do you feel we will ever reach a world without men in positions of privilege?
Pass the Privilege
Gender. Race. Income. Sexual Orientation. Age. Nationality. There are countless examples of privilege in our daily lives. What privileges do you enjoy? If we’re to develop a more equal society, what do you need to do to make it happen? Is it actually possible to give up your privilege? If so, what’s an example? If not, how can you use your privilege to help others in society? How are you actively making room for others?
Environmental Leadership Series
SOS: Save the
Earth Human Race
Whether it’s due to pollution or an eventual depletion of natural resources, the human impact on planet Earth seems to be nearing a perilous tipping point. As the human population grows, so too do demands for clean water, nutritious food, and boundless energy – all of which place a tremendous strain on Earth. Of course, the planet itself will survive. But will we? What responsibility do today’s business leaders have to ensure that their manufacturing and distribution of goods are sustainable and without negative impact? Are there examples of business models that actually have a positive impact on Earth? Are you thinking hard enough about your impact and what you might be doing to make it a more positive – or less negative – one? What difficult decisions do we need to make now to ensure our future?
Family Leadership Series
Duty of Care: The right to die?
The medical community seems intent on further extending lifespans. Does this seem like an unequivocally good idea to you? Should patients be able to choose how and when to die? What's the proper role of health care providers and family members in determining when medical treatment should end? Have you been confronted with life or death medical decisions for your loved ones or friends? Did you honor their requests? If you were in a similar situation facing your own mortality, would you want to be empowered to decide when to die? How do we maintain our humanity as we make these decisions?
Empty Nesters: And then there were two…
The kids have left the house. Now what? How are you and your spouse processing a quieter home? How does the absence of your children impact your day-to-day life? Does it change how you identify as individuals or as a couple? What will you do differently as an empty nester? Is this an opportunity to realize the promise of leadership? How?
Nurturing Your Spirituality
How does your spirituality and faith help you lead? What values are most important to you and how do use these principles during times of happiness and despair? When were your beliefs challenged and how did you preserve them? Were your beliefs passed onto you from your parents or did they develop for you as an adult? How are you helping your children identify and explore their own role in the universe?
Future of Work Series I Sponsored by Care.com & Cognizant
20/20 Vision: Imagining work in 20 Years
Twenty years from now, what will work look like? Will people still commute to an office? What will office culture resemble under the leadership of Millennials and Generation Z? Will males have lost their monopoly on their positions of power and privilege? What sort of impact will shifting advances in automation, telecommunication, and artificial intelligence have on the labor force and to people’s purpose? If the standard work week is no longer possible for employees due to tech advancements, how might the social contract between workers, governments, and businesses need to change? How might people make ends meet? Will society need a social safety net? How are we preparing for that? Who is responsible for creating it? Whose responsibility is it to make sure workers can earn a living wage? What comes after the “gig” economy? Is the Universal Basic Income a credible solution? Isn’t less work a good thing?
Tech Tsunami: Artificial Intelligence, automation, and the future of work (Intergenerational)
Shifting demographics in the workforce are having a tremendous impact on societies around the world. In Africa, India, and the Middle East, a ballooning youth population has created a high level of unemployed people looking for job opportunities. In the United States, a retiring Baby Boomer generation will soon be making room for the rise of Millennial workers with a new ethos and high expectations. These population shifts offer significant challenges on their own, but with the wave of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and automation heading our way, what’s the future of the human worker? Where are human workers – and humanity – in a world of A.I.? Are there some jobs that will never be replaced entirely by A.I.? How will technology impact regions of the world differently? Will the employment gains in countries like India be washed away as bots replace call centers? Have we fully grasped how technology is about to disrupt the workforce? How might this disruption actually be an opportunity in disguise for better jobs, greater financial inclusion, and overall better outcomes for workers?
Talent Pipelines: Educating the future worker (Intergenerational)
The future of work will look much different from today. How do we prepare and train future generations to be competitive and prosperous in a workforce where humans and technology will coexist in ways we’re still imagining? How are you preparing your children, nieces, and nephews to inherit this brave new world? How can schools better prepare and train youth to be competitive in the workforce? What are the most important values and skills to instill in the current generation of youth? And for the youth, what are the skills you think you’ll need to achieve your dreams? What can business, government, and social sector leaders of today be doing to help you?
Healthcare has evolved in ways that Hippocrates could never have imagined. However, new technologies and cures must constantly be tested. As history has shown, marginalized groups and minorities are often the main subjects of these necessary medical trials. Who decides what risks to take and whether they’re worth it? How good is the medical sector at pushing boundaries in fair and ethical ways? What is the role of government to value and protect all life? What, if anything, needs to change? Whose responsibility is it to ensure those changes happen?
The Future of Health: What will healthcare look like in 25 years?
Extended life expectancies. Gene editing. The cure to cancer. Technological advancements. What will healthcare look like 25 years from now? How do you lead in a time of technological change and rapid healthcare advancements? Are these medical advancements truly accessible to all people? Should they be? What does an ethical healthcare model look like given the rapid changes around us? What role do leaders have in equalizing existing healthcare disparities before we make life better for a select few?
Getting Proximate: Building a culture of health and wellness in our communities
Do you foster a culture within your company that emphasizes good physical and mental health for your employees? How? Whose responsibility it is to create this culture? How much of a factor is a healthy workforce to the success of a company? Do companies have a responsibility to the health and wellness of the broader community? If so, why? If not, why not?
Substance Abuse: Just say no?
Opioids in the United States. Prescription stimulants in Central America. A rising use of illegal drugs in China after decades of government control. Substance abuse is a public health crisis around the world. Are the approaches you see to address this crisis effective? How do we solve this problem? Has substance abuse impacted you, your family, your company, or your community? Have you ever experienced substance abuse first hand? How did you recover? Whose responsibility is it to tackle substance abuse? How can public-private partnerships, government, and communities work together to address this public health crisis? What role can business best play in this equation?
Leading in an Era of Globalization Series
A Changing World: Opportunity or threat?
China reemerging. America stepping aside. Europe fraying. Africa rising. We live in a time of dynamic change. Might these changes be for the better? How so? Who will they leave behind? What values might be at risk? What’s the role of Fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network in channeling the inevitability of change for the good?
Globalization vs. Nationalism: The impact on business
After well over a century of the world becoming more interconnected, what will the next chapter look like as nationalist movements seem to be gathering steam wherever you look? How are these political movements impacting business on issues like manufacturing and trade, banking and taxes, and access to labor? As business leaders, what are you preparing for as you look to the next few years? Did globalization go too far, making what we’re seeing today a natural and healthy correction?
Strong Leaders: Is Democracy Overrated?
Since the end of the Second World War, the West has been a champion for the democratic ideal. And throughout the second half of the 20th Century, many countries adopted democratic institutions, free elections, and more. But is democracy all it’s cracked up to be? Or has it been corrupted to the point of unrecognizability and dysfunction? Is there a case to be made for strong centralized leadership? After all, China has lifted half a billion people out of poverty, emerged as a global leader of renewable energy, and arguably, can boast the strongest business start-up space in the world. What can the rest of the world learn from the China experience?
Navigating Pivotal Moments Series I Sponsored by the McNulty Foundation
Productive Deviance: When to defy convention
As a leader focused on making change, how do you decide whether to work within a paradigm or throw out the paradigm altogether? Are you willing to go against the grain in order to be effective? How does your leadership style, biases, cultural context or personality affect that choice? How do you know when to challenge the very system you may be a part of, and what gives you the freedom to defy convention? If you made your choice, did fear help or hinder you? How long does it take to know if a new road is leading somewhere?
Resilient Leadership: Staying focused for the long haul
The journey of social impact can be exhausting. Even when you have passion, support, and a proven model, adversity inevitably strikes, and fatigue and self-doubt can set in. How do you stay resilient during this journey? What keeps you going? What recharges your commitment and gives you power? How do you resist fear and exhaustion? And how do you balance your personal resilience with the life of your venture, juggling both self and organizational sustainability?
The Pivotal Moment: When should becomes must
We all can remember that moment – when things shifted in us forever. Perhaps it was something you caught out of the corner of your eye, the event you observed as a bystander, the time what you knew to be true was no longer. What was your pivotal moment? What shaped you into who you are today? When did you realize there might be something different, more for you for to be doing? When that lightning-bolt moment struck, what were you fearful of? And what did you do next?
Time for a Change: When and how to transition
It’s hard to know when to step down from a leadership position or take on a new role. Perhaps founder’s syndrome crept in? Perhaps you reached a point where your expertise and experience could be better utilized? Perhaps you felt called to something new, or personal? If you’ve already made a change, what were the factors you considered? How did your team, your family and your happiness factor into the equation? If you’re considering a change, what’s holding you back? And what’s the best way to do it?
Power of Proximity Series I Sponsored by the Skoll Foundation
Compassionate Leadership: Opening up a blind eye
The homeless and malnourished are doubtlessly just blocks away from where you live. Refugees are knocking on your country's border or may already be in camps nearby. The displays of privilege and inequality surround us. What are or have you become blind to? Have you always been so? If not, when did this happen? How do you (re)open your blind eye to see those around you in a more humane and compassionate way? How can you see the world through a more empathetic lens and serve as a role model for others to do the same?
Talking About Race: How to have the tough but needed conversations
Over the past year, underlying tensions around race – long in place – have become ever more apparent. Many people are calling for “a conversation.” Exactly what conversations is that? Who should define it? How do we keep it from devolving into cynicism, inaction, or confrontation? How do you lead through a time of racial tension?
Empathy Through Proximity: Embrace your brokenness
Often, the hard work of social change brings us up close to uncomfortable facts and deep brokenness. Have you experienced this? When you see the brokenness in those you serve, Bryan Stevenson (our keynote speaker from 2015) says, you recognize your own brokenness – do you agree with this? What is your brokenness? Is there restorative power in recognizing it?
Speaking Truth to Power Series
Beyond #MeToo: Eradicating harassment
A wave of fearless women and men stepped up this past year to call out people in positions of power – nearly always men – who acted inappropriately or committed a sexual assault in a professional setting. Has this global movement taken you by surprise? If you spoke up, why did you decide that now was the right time to do so? What do you hope to achieve? If you haven’t spoken out, what’s kept you from doing so? Have you seen things in the past that, in retrospect, you should have spoken out against? As the leader of your business or organization, what are you doing to change your work culture to prevent future attacks, harassment, and unwanted advances? Regardless of your gender, how are you reflecting on your own actions to make sure they’re in line with what you’re saying? For many of us, it’s entirely possible that good friends and colleagues may be or already have been named. How do you balance loyalty with what’s right?
Does fearless art have the power to change the world?
Olafur Eliasson said, “Most of us know the feeling of being moved by a work of art, whether it is a song, a play, a poem, a novel, a painting, or a sculpture. When we are moved by art, we become aware of feelings that may not be unfamiliar to us but which we did not actively focus on before.” Art of all kinds can invoke fear or freedom from it. It moves beyond national borders or cultural confines. Have you ever felt moved by art? Have you changed your behavior after seeing a movie, reading a book, or hearing a song? What is the responsibility of artists – filmmakers, authors, architects, painters, singer/songwriters and more – today? Can art change the world?
Do you have free press in your country? Is government censorship ever a good thing? In countries with free press, the media is under greater scrutiny than ever with accusations of bias or “fake news.” In other places, journalists operate in great peril. How do reporters, journalists, and filmmakers become fearless – and stay safe – in the face of these conditions? What stories still need to be told by the media that haven’t been brought to light already? How can journalists walk the fine line between opinion and fact? Is it ever justified to cross that line? What role do we all have in actually protecting journalists?