A conversation with Rhoda Lane O’Kell
In a dynamic and volatile world, where things change every minute, a point of reference for business is leadership: the mission and vision of a company needs to be clear and visible to the whole team of workers. Leaders need also to face a reshaping phase of business models due to the presence of new sustainabledynamics. The whole global conversation stood on three “pillars questions”: what is leadership, why is it important for the future and who is responsible for it.
Rhoda Lane-O’Kelly holds a B.A. in Languages and International Marketing from Dublin City University and she completed her studies in Export Marketing Management at the Irish Institute for European Affairs and the University of Louvain La Neuve in Belgium. She is the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Director of Europe Middle East & Africa with a particular focus on membership engagement and growth in the region. Rhoda Lane-O’Kelly is also a member of the CGF Management Committee.
At the very beginning of the meeting, Mrs. Rhoda Lane-O’Kelly explored the “classical” sphere of leadership and why it is important for our future. From a traditional point of view, it is important for a leader to know his value in the broader market, ask and negotiate to seek other opportunities while having a visible success; a good team is able to create shareholder value.
Shifting to a more futuristic perspective, consumers, markets and investors are the key figures in this business puzzle that are essential units to know more about the present economic era. According to some reports of an American global management consulting firm called A.T Kearney, trust in brands is declining: big brands are facing existential threats. The dynamic nature of market is evident due to the novelties introduced in existent businesses, such as Airbnb, Deliveroo, Just eat, Amazon Go, etc…
Who is responsible for leadership?
Money still talks. They communicate more information than a proper board meeting: they mirror what people want and how customers are working or what they prefer to have fun. If every company is able to articulate a clear “map” of needs, the organization will understand better the future of its business.
Leadership is the fundamental tool that guides and helps companies study the map of customers’ necessities in order to make the final goal more clear.
People want to make a real difference in this world and they need a purpose to give meaning to their job: positive change drives growth.
After a curious excursus on leadership, Mrs. O’Kelly has stressed the importance for companies to adopt a green footprint to attract new investors and as a proof of it, she showed us that the latest market updates reveal growth in sales of sustainable food. An example of a new purpose for an organization can be “prioritize the production of zero food miles” or “abolish plastic packages for fruit and vegetables”. If companies don’t have a central purpose in strategy and if they don’t give back something to society, they won’t have a future.
Collaboration is the keyword to make the difference in the business world: the team’s components with a good leader need to work simultaneously, implying 100% of energy and passion.
At the same time, retailers and manufacturers can’t solve the problems on their own, they need to come up with a solution by joining forces.
In the competitive sector, retailers are fighting for prices, health and business model. On the other hand, brands are competing for health, and the costs of internal activities.
As previously said, Mrs. O’Kelly works for CGF, an organization that wants to promote the collaboration between retailers and brands. They can work on product safety, sustainability, healthy diets and transparency; this last field is becoming more and more relevant for the consumer because it represents free access to data of products, a transparent process.
The CGF exists to drive positive change in this world, working together to build consumer trust. The organization is composed of “member-driven” people(400 individuals), they are manufacturers, retailers and service providers from 70 countries. Teams are formed by 1,500 experts who guide the implementation; moreover, 54 CEOs are part of the Board of Directors shaping the agenda of the company.
In the majority of the cases, Mrs. O’Kelly needed to study different plans to communicate with CEOs, they have their own vision on things and she must be able to mediate their ideas with the ones of the company. In business, find a balance sometimes is the most difficult issue to face.
Building employee and consumer trust is the first step towards a new era for companies in a crowded environment.
During these difficult days, there are several challenges that humanity needs to face, health, data & interoperability, food safety, deforestation and so on.
Her final words were full of joy and hope for future generations, in particular GG students, to change the world and offer something new as a drop into the ocean.
“[…]For this reason young generations need to find a purpose, live it outside and give it a meaning”