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The changing face of event leadership in the pandemic era

I was interested to hear what Madeleine Albright, the first US female Secretary of State had to say about leadership in these days of upheaval, where nothing is certain.

So I logged on to An Evening with Madeleine Albright, a How To Academy online event, in which the former diplomat spoke about her latest book Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir.

The name of the book came from her best-known quote: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” In fact, it became so famous that it ended up on a Starbucks cup.

During the talk, Albright said she was encouraged that today’s world is more inclusive. “More foreign ministers around the world are women and it’s important for women to work with each other – and men.”

This is something we can take into the events industry, which prides itself on creativity and individuality, where people can be themselves. Times have changed and we all breathe a sigh of relief that it’s no longer a case of “in order to fit in you need to emulate men in the past,” as Albright remembers from her early years.

Leadership comes in many guises – from testosterone-fuelled to laid back and relaxed. One only has to look at the different styles of Trump versus Trudeau.

Albright says that women make good leaders “not by being egotists but trying to be helpful and dependable. Women are good at multitasking – and this allows you to have peripheral vision.”

There are more similarities between the events industry and the world of diplomacy than you might think. Albright says that in order to be a successful secretary of state, you need a lot of partners to work with and to find areas where you can cooperate such as climate change, sustainability and how to deal with the pandemic.

As she says: “Democracy is not a spectator sport… It took me a long time to find my voice and I am not going to be quiet. We shouldn’t limit ourselves.”

As we have learned in the Covid-19 era, it’s important to tough it out and inspiring leadership today is crucial. “To have resiliency – that is the most important part,” Albright says, although she adds the caveat that “the world is a mess.”

So, where do we go from here? I find it easy to fall into despondency, but Albright, who considers herself a problem solver, explains her confidence in the future: “What makes me an optimist is the next generation.”

Looking into her crystal ball, she says: “I think things will be very different. We do have a choice between hell and other destinations.”

  • Madeleine Albright served as America’s 64th secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. Her  career also includes positions at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
  • Her recently published book FASCISM A Warning is a personal and urgent examination of fascism in the 20th century and how its legacy shapes today’s world.