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Learning to rewire for this haywire world

Gabby Ludzker, CEO of Rapp UK on the key learnings from Omniwomen + Allies Summit: Rewired 2022.

This week I had the honour of chairing the Omniwomen + Allies Summit: Rewired 2022. The objective of the day was for leaders and future leaders to Rewire themselves for a Haywire World — to find the solutions, resources and inner strength to live and lead in this era of constant and relentless change.

The American Military has a term for this period in our lives: VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). Yet, as Sam Coniff, author and founder of Livity explained, there is a clear lack of emotion in that phrase. Our discomfort with the unknown and the unforeseeable exacerbates some very negative behaviour in the boardroom; behaviour we all recognise in some of our colleagues or indeed in ourselves sometimes.

However, Coniff pointed out the fact that these last few years are no different from any other, in that we don’t know and cannot know what will transpire next. The key is to live with the uncertainty and fix “our inability to experience doubt as a pathway to discovery”. It is through being comfortable with moments of doubt and in not running from them but reflecting on them, that we can emerge victorious. Coniff has worked with dozens of experts worldwide to aim to quantify ‘Uncertainty Tolerance’, the key trait for leaders of today.

It is through being comfortable with moments of doubt and in not running from them but reflecting on them, that we can emerge victorious

Gabby Ludzker is CEO of Rapp UK

Dr Afua Basoah, Head of Health Strategy at RAPP UK, followed with a deep dive into neuroplasticity, which is the idea that you can train your brain into becoming more flexible and more open in order to help cope with the unexpected. By doing something deliberately different every single day, we can reshape our neural pathways to find other ways of doing things which is the key to driving greater innovation into our businesses.

The power of simply getting on with it

Yet how do we find the strength to rewire the path we thought we’d take? The one we planned and envisioned for ourselves? Claire Lomas MBE, the professional horse rider who was tragically paralysed from the chest down in a freak accident, showed us the way. (What an inspiration!) Lomas is a woman who has already achieved more than I ever will in my entire lifetime, through a disciplined determination to progress, to never let doubt or the ‘uncontrollable’ stand in her way.

Lomas exemplifies the idea that a fundamental pivot can take you to not only a better place but to your true desired outcome. Having previously often “wished she had hit the tree harder”, (devastating to hear), she says that the 5 best moments in her whole life have happened since the accident. She added that the key to riding a motorbike unable to feel her legs was to “stop dithering and get on with it” and her life has shown me that we better bloody get on and do the same!

The crux of this transformation in our leadership style is the confidence to ‘Sit with this uncertainty’; Deena Gornick, Executive Coach showed us physically the default image we give off, usually a diminished posture — slouched shoulders for example or crossed arms. By simply changing this we were able to not only confront the inner goals we truly had (if we just had more confidence) but to admit them to others and commit to achieving them in the room.

Finally, Harriet Minter, former Editor of the Guardian and the Founder of their Women in Leadership section exposed us to some of her greatest discoveries while interviewing the great and good. Firstly, even the formidable Sheryl Sandberg has a team of trusted and talented colleagues, support staff and administrators who enable her to achieve her vision. She talked about the need for all of us to find our ‘Personal Board’ in order to succeed — just like Sheryl. She also talked about how her discovery of Power Yoga, the agony and ecstasy, made her realise “we all need a safe place to fail”.

We will have succeeded in this era of leadership if we have created with our people the trust, respect and confidence to both live with and through periods of uncertainty and embodied this safe place to fail

Gabby Ludzker is CEO of Rapp UK

Throughout the day, we had colleagues from all walks of Omnicom give micro speeches on their personal Rewired Journeys, with one speaker opening up bravely about their own struggle with gender. They said that after so many years battling, they had finally found comfort, self-recognition and confidence existing in the space between genders as non-binary. A true example of Uncertainty Tolerance.

At the end of the day, I think we will have succeeded in this era of leadership if we have created with our people the trust, respect and confidence to both live with and through periods of uncertainty and embodied this safe place to fail. We won’t always get it right, but by being open to trying different things, to pivoting, we will create a more innovative and exciting, successful place for our people. And as long as our primary concern is a Duty of Care for them, then we should just stop dithering and get on with it.

Gabby Ludzker is the CEO at RAPP UK

This article originally ran in Creativebrief in May 2022

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