How CFOs should navigate leadership in today's dynamic world


Corporate Traveller’s Bonnie Smith unpacks the skills that make a great leader in uncertain times.

When the going gets tough, good leaders step up. This especially rings true for the travel industry, which has faced a whirlwind of changes over the past few years. And, as travel has undergone a transformative shift, so have the essentials of what makes a great leader in our present world.

Today, there’s a noticeable leaning towards ‘creative leadership’, and a move away from merely ‘reactive leadership’. For CFOs and top-tier executives, getting a handle on these changes isn’t just good practice – it’s essential for the future.

Let’s dive into some of the key leadership skills that are front and centre today, and unpack the evolving landscape for women in leadership.

1. Embracing diversity and inclusion

I am a strong advocate for diverse teams and believe that bringing together individuals from various backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s a smart business move. Fresh perspectives lead to innovative solutions.

It’s about creating a supportive atmosphere for your team, where they can learn and improve together. You want everyone to feel empowered to speak up and share their thoughts or ideas without fear of judgment. This helps each team member bring their best self to work and feel like they belong and are valued as part of the team.

To push the boundaries on diversity and inclusion, I recommend:

  • Leading by example, showing that every voice matters.
  • Prioritising hiring practices that celebrate diversity and offer equal chances to all.
  • Organising training sessions to address and break down biases.
  • Including a mix of perspectives in decision-making.
  • Holding everyone, from top to bottom, accountable for keeping the workplace inclusive.
  • Introducing flexible policies catering to varied needs, like working from home or extended leaves.
  • Engaging with a broad range of suppliers and partners.
  • Keeping track of how well diversity and inclusion initiatives are doing.
  • Being open about the company’s commitment to diversity, and making sure everyone plays a part in shaping the vision.

2. Being adaptable and open to change

The pandemic threw a wrench in the works, especially with the rise of the ‘workation’ culture. Leaders had their work cut out, figuring out how to keep remote teams motivated and connected.

In the travel industry, women leaders stand out for their adaptability and resilience when dealing with challenges. They have a keen understanding of how the industry changes and approach problems with a positive and proactive attitude.

3. Offering empathy and understanding

With so many changes happening so quickly, leaders had to do more than just manage – they had to care. A dose of genuine empathy goes a long way.

Many women in leadership roles know firsthand the juggling act between work and home. They’re in a unique position to drive changes that help everyone find a healthy work-life balance.

The journey through the pandemic has truly reshaped the fabric of leadership, requiring adaptability and a deeper understanding of human dynamics. To succeed in this new reality, leaders have to be good at handling change, bringing their teams together, and being emotionally aware.

Great CFO leaders

Great leaders see beyond spreadsheets. They get the human side of work and travel, making wellbeing a top priority. Effective leaders understand the human elements of work and travel, prioritise well-being and champion flexibility and trust.

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