Sharing lessons on purposeful leadership

Richard Branson poses with arms outstretched beside Halla Tomas
Image from Sirius XM
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 26 May 2021

Earlier this month, we brought together almost 20 Virgin companies from around the world for a workshop on diversity, equity, belonging and one of my biggest passions - purposeful leadership. The gathering was hosted by Virgin Unite's brilliant 100% Human at Work network and was a great collaboration between Virgin, EY and Unilever.

A quote from Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team
The B Team

I was so honoured to start the session by interviewing one of the world’s most purposeful leaders - Halla Tómasdóttir. Halla is CEO of The B Team and a former Icelandic presidential candidate. She is someone who really embodies purposeful leadership and is committed to making business a force for good in the world. I was excited and fascinated to get the chance to quiz Halla on what makes a purposeful leader and a purpose driven company in the 21st century. As always, she did not disappoint! Halla kindly gave us a masterclass in purposeful leadership, and here are some of her incredible take-aways.

Halla and Holly discuss purposeful leadership

Tips for companies

  1. It is time to be 10 times bolder. This must be the decade of action and accountability. Companies need to set goals about changing who ‘is in the room’ and disclose the details with transparency.

  2. Companies need to create, foster and embrace learning cultures. This is not the time for leadership to show up thinking we have the answers. It is the time to show up, create bold space, and invite everyone to seek the answers together.

  3. Companies should view equity as a never-ending process. It's just like developing our muscles, it takes attention and practice. We're never going to get there is unless we see this as an endless opportunity to grow as a business.

Tips for individuals

  1. There is a leader inside each of us. We have never needed purposeful leaders as much as we do now. Who you 'choose to be' at this time is an important question we should all be asking ourselves.

  2. Befriend your ‘impostor’! Halla believes that one of the missing elements in leadership today is a lack of humility. Be friends with your impostor and don’t allow the question: “Who am I to do something about this?” stop you. Instead ask, “who am I not to do something about a world that needs us?”

  3. Create your own moral compass. Outline your purpose and principles, so that when things go wrong or you're pushed to do things that you are unsure of, you’ll be able to stay on track. We all need to be stubborn optimists right now and not waiver from our truth.

  4. To quote the incredible Desmond Tutu, be a "prisoner of hope” and not a prisoner of fear. Many of us have been put in this position during this last year, but that’s not going to help us feel optimistic and help lift others. Don’t let negative media, or other people, drain you of energy. It is through hope and belief in the future that we can be our best selves.

  5. Ask yourself and, everyone around you, questions instead of simply answers. Be curious. Halla's favourite questions to ask are, “who will you choose to be?” and, “what will you choose to do at a time like this?" Will you choose to change the who in order to change the how? This is how we can build the world we want to live in.

Thank you, Halla, for sharing such fascinating insight and thank you for always fighting for equality and diversity. I hope you find it as eye-opening as I did, and thank you to every from the Virgin family and beyond who joined us.

Learn more about Virgin Unite's partners at 100% Human at Work right here.