Several hundred guests tuned in to this online panel discussion hosted by Ed Brooks. Given the upheaval of COVID-19, the fraught American political scene, the UK’s exit from the EU, together with the many other crises and challenges of today’s world, the timing of this discussion was apt. The panel guests were David Brooks (award-winning author and New York Times columnist), Dr Elizabeth Kiss (Warden of Rhodes House, Oxford University), and Dr Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw (Senior Historian and Director of History, Research and Scholarly Programs at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery).
DuBois Shaw emphasized the positive role of emotional vulnerability—of being real—in leadership. She talked about Gerald Ford’s public display of sorrow in the midst of Betty Ford’s battle with cancer. While this display was initially met with criticism, it went on to have a profound impact: in response to the Fords’ candid, emotional discussion of Betty’s illness, the number of American women undergoing breast cancer screening significantly increased.
David Brooks suggested that there is a pressing need for leaders who can help transition a white-dominant world into a more diverse one—in a manner which preserves the ‘social fabric’ and minimizes conflict, enmity, and loneliness.
Elizabeth Kiss highlighted the link between emotional intelligence and a collaborative approach to problem-solving. Leaders who lack a strong EQ will find it difficult to navigate the diversity that is part and parcel of a more synergistic, interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving. Additionally, she lamented that many aspiring leaders tend to focus on the huge challenges in the world at the expense of introspection.