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In 50 words or less, what you will be speaking about at the ASFA Conference?

An inclusive economy is a healthy economy. We have a great opportunity in this defining decade for humanity, to invest in the future of many generations to come.

Leaders today need to balance political pressure, performance pressure and the court of public opinion. If you were advising leaders today in how to manage this, what would you say?

Leadership begins from within. Once we become clear on our own purpose, the values that inform our actions, and the goals we are striving to achieve, we can then move to leading the collective. Building momentum behind our work requires us to connect what we care about, to the motivational drivers of the public. When our ‘why’ becomes the ‘why’ of the team, company, or social cause, pressure becomes a positive force for momentum as opposed to a constraint.

Do you think leaders are born or are created? And why?

The myth of the ‘natural-born leader’ holds so many of us back from leading the change we care about in the world. We need to think not only about how we define leadership, but how we shape agendas, feedback processes, conversations and collaborations to ensure that the loudest extrovert in the room doesn’t soak up all the oil. It’s a warning to make sure we don’t miss out on our entire workforce ascending to the height of their talents purely because we’ve dismissed people as not a ‘natural leader’ or haven’t designed an environment that caters for all. Thankfully leadership today is shifting from power, to empowerment; a leadership journey widely applicable to different types of change-makers.

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You have recently written a book called ‘The Leading Edge’. Can you describe briefly what it is about and who it was written for?

I was inspired to bring ‘The Leading Edge’ to life because I know from experience the challenge of moving beyond the feeling of wanting to lead and into the action of leading. Growing up, I always had the big dream, the fire in my belly, the inner feisty social-warrior streak. What I didn’t have, and longed for, was the science. On my journey, I have developed the mindset to choose my moment, deal with criticism and bounce back strong. The methods to back up my opinions, test my fledgling strategies and work through fear. And the mastery to set and achieve goals, to work ‘on’ as well as ‘in’ my mission and to build a tribe of allies equally restless for change.

But it’s not about what I’ve done, or even why I’ve done it. I want to break open the notion that leadership is exclusive. It’s not. And in today’s world more than ever we simply cannot afford for it to be. I believe everyone was born to lead in some way, and leading from the edge means harnessing the state of mind, the processes and the artistry that will arm leaders of all walks of life for impact.

After interviewing so many global leaders and great thinkers, have you noticed a similarity or a common thread that might set leaders apart from others? What is the secret sauce?

Every single leader I have ever asked ‘how’ they have led great change, has instead answered ‘why’ they have made great change – without fail! The certainty and quiet calm leaders who are perfectly attuned to their own purpose exude is hands down the most common theme of the great leaders I have sat in the presence of.

What leadership qualities do you see as having been most important during the pandemic?

Complex, unforeseen and rapidly emerging challenges will not be solved by leaders at the top of the hierarchy with a false sense of control. Diverse, distributed leadership is needed if we are to have a hope in hell of tackling issues of inequality, climate crisis, a public health pandemic, a tenuous economy and failing trust in institutions.

When we look to leadership as a single point of light, we throw our own knowledge, lived experience and fledgling ideas into darkness. But when we see leadership as a circle of light, defined by everyone brave enough to step forward and contribute their impact, we can far more easily push out into the unknown, the uncertain, the uncomfortable… illuminating blind spots and finding new pathways as we go. This is what I call leading at the edge.

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From all the leaders and influential people you have interviewed and met over the years, who has most surprised you and why?

Many of these diverse leaders are featured in my book ‘The Leading Edge’. People from Kenya, Jordan, New Zealand, Ireland, the Himalayas, Canada and many more corners of the Earth. These leaders identify as Muslim, Black, transgender, Indigenous, suburban, Jedi-warrior, LGBTQIA+, shy, fearless and everything in between and are doggedly, intelligently seeking to be the change they wish to see in the world. I wanted the people and stories from the messy, challenging, vulnerability-inducing reality that is working for impact every day. My aim has been to consolidate their lessons to illuminate a new path forward. Perhaps it’s not a surprise pertaining to one single leader so much as a delight I find in almost all true leaders – generosity.

Holly Ransom appears by arrangement with Claxton Speakers International.

Holly Ransom is speaking at the ASFA Conference. You can read more about her keynote ‘ Mindset, method, and mastery: leading through the maze’ here.