Category Archives: Leadership

The virtuous circle of what’s needed to trigger Europe’s digital sovereignty

By Stefano da Empoli – Like a prism that changes according to the perspective through which it is observed, there are many possible interpretations of the concept of digital sovereignty. In the past few days, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has provided some inspiration for the right way to look at it. During a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, and held after the signing of the Quirinale Treaty, Draghi referred to European sovereignty as the “ability to direct the future as we wish.”

In the digital domain, the power to be the author of one’s own destiny can be won with two tools: sound rules and technological investment. Only a balanced combination of them, however, can produce digital sovereignty to the benefit of European citizens. Much has been said in recent years about the so-called ‘Brussels effect’, the title of a successful book by Anu Bradford, the Finnish-born legal scholar based at Columbia University in New York.

Through the definition of a robust and ambitious regulatory framework, the European Union has managed to establish itself as the main global rule-maker, influencing the legislation of other countries and inducing non-European companies to take it into account not only for products and services sold in the old continent but also elsewhere.

A meaningful case study is the GDPR, the European privacy regulation, which was approved in 2016 and came into force in 2018. One of the basic principles, that of privacy by design, i.e. already built into a product or service at the time of its conception, has become the mantra of many American companies in just a few years. While it is true that the US does not yet have a federal privacy law, California, which is home to most of the large American technology companies, passed a very similar one. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Unequal America: Ten insights on the state of economic opportunity
By André Dua, Kweilin Ellingrud, Michael Lazar, Ryan Luby, Matthew Petric, Alex Ulyett, and Tucker Van Aken – As parts of the United States begin the long path to recovery from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we set out to understand what Americans think about their current economic standing, their views on economic opportunity, and the barriers they see standing between themselves and a more inclusive and prosperous future.

So we asked them directly.

Together with the market-research and opinion-polling firm Ipsos, we surveyed 25,000 Americans in the spring of 2021 in an effort to understand their perceptions of the current and future state of the US economy, to discern firsthand their hopes for the future, and to learn about the challenges they face. We also wanted to establish a baseline of data to better understand how outcomes and perceptions are affected by people’s access to resources, as well as by factors such as their identity, education, and level of caregiving responsibility. The breadth and depth of our sample allowed us to draw timely insights across demographic categories and geographic cuts (see sidebar “About the survey”). While the results of our inaugural survey reflect just one moment in time—a period during which the course of the COVID-19 virus and economic conditions were rapidly evolving—they serve as a useful baseline view into the economic experiences of a broad swath of Americans.

What we learned was sobering. Among the findings: Americans report that their financial situations have deteriorated over the past year, and at the time of our survey only half of all respondents reported being able to cover their living expenses for more than two months in the event of job loss. Our survey results also indicated that the pandemic has harmed the economic well-being of many groups, exacerbating inequalities that existed before the crisis. Americans reported facing numerous barriers to economic opportunity and inclusion—among them, inadequate access to health insurance and physical and mental healthcare, as well as to affordable childcare. Moreover, many respondents said that they feel their very identity limits their access to jobs and to fair recognition and reward for their work. more>

Fixing climate finance

Finance was at the heart of the COP26 rupture between developed and developing countries—it’s time for a new approach.
By Jeffrey D Sachs – The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) fell far short of what is needed for a safe planet, owing mainly to the lack of trust which has burdened global climate negotiations for almost three decades. Developing countries regard climate change as a crisis caused largely by the rich countries, which they also view as shirking their historical and ongoing responsibility for the crisis. Worried that they will be left paying the bills, many key developing countries, such as India, don’t much care to negotiate or strategise.

They have a point—indeed, several points. The shoddy behaviour of the United States over three decades is not lost on them. Despite the worthy pleas for action by the US president, Joe Biden, and the climate envoy, John Kerry, Biden has been unable to push Congress to adopt a clean-energy standard. Biden can complain all he wants about China but after 29 years of congressional inaction, since the Senate ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the rest of the world sees the truth: America’s broken and corrupt Congress remains in the pocket of Big Oil and Big Coal.

Finance is at the heart of the geopolitical rupture on climate change. Developing countries are already reeling under countless pressures: the Covid-19 pandemic, weak domestic economies, increasingly frequent and severe climate-related disasters, the multiple disruptions of the digital age, US-China tensions and high borrowing costs on international loans. They watch the rich countries borrow trillions of dollars on capital markets at near-zero interest rates, while they must pay 5-10 per cent if they can borrow at all. In short, they see their societies falling even further behind a few high-income countries. more>

Updates from Ciena

‘Branching Out’ our learning
By Jane Hobbs & Jason Phipps – As part of the initiative to create a culture of happiness, vibrancy, and belonging, I was very excited to launch the People Promise in June 2020, a commitment that we can all make a difference, be empowered, and feel included.

Making it easier for individuals to learn and develop has always been important to us, not just about professional career growth and skill training but also on personal growth and wellbeing.

To support this, we launched this new learning experience, calling it Branch Out, as we saw the topics as a way for people to branch out their learning. Launching this platform was a powerful tool as it came at a time where it could help us cope in different ways with how the pandemic impacted our wellbeing and also still put an emphasis on having learning available 24/7 – important in Global company.

As part of the initiative to create a culture of happiness, vibrancy, and belonging, I was very excited to launch the People Promise in June 2020, a commitment that we can all make a difference, be empowered, and feel included.

Making it easier for individuals to learn and develop has always been important to us, not just about professional career growth and skill training but also on personal growth and wellbeing. more>

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Can the crisis of social reproduction bring the demise of central-European illiberals?

By Weronika Grzebalska – This month, Polish protesters took to the streets after 30-year-old Izabela passed away from septicaemia in a hospital, her foetus having died in her womb. Her death came nine months after abortion in cases of foetal defects was deemed unconstitutional in Poland, under the illiberal Law and Justice (PiS) government.

Women’s rights activists fear that this cruel ruling will increasingly push medical staff to take a wait-and-see approach to women with difficult pregnancies. Population experts also predict it will further lower already falling birth rates, with surveys long reporting that Polish women are having fewer children than they would like to, due to the twin pressures of market capitalism and illiberal pronatalism.

The anti-abortion ruling exposes the cynical contradictions of illiberal family and demographic policy. This is why Polish politicians and anti-abortion advocacy groups have since tried to distance themselves from Izabela’s death, presenting it as a tragic accident unrelated to their radical agenda.

After all, the illiberal right in both Poland and Hungary came to power harnessing material anxieties related to the growing crisis of social reproduction—the declining ability of societies to create and maintain social bonds and provide care between and within generations. By promising to protect ‘family values’ amid the progressive decline of socio-economic security, and by offering families vital endowments, central-European illiberals have rallied even moderate voters behind their agenda. more>

So where’s Europe’s real source of strength?

By Justin Urquhart Stewart – We are all familiar with the large political behemoths that dominate our globe, not just in terms of political influence, but also through their financial strength. The United States, although having a federal structure, has power centered very clearly on Washington. The same would apply to the other superpower, namely China, albeit under a completely different totalitarian political system. As events in Hong Kong have so perfectly illustrated, any thought of an alternative political view or opinion, let alone action, will not be tolerated.

We should also mention Russia, who although no longer a superpower, is still formidable and a potentially dangerous entity. By way of illustration, the value of the entire economy of this geographical giant, as measured by its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is less than half of that of Germany. It, too, despite nominally titling itself as a democratic nation, is quite obviously under a firm central system of Putin’s command and control.

These three, therefore, stand in great contrast to the real strength and opportunity supplied by the structure of the EU. Since its birth back in the 1950s, some have desired and dreamt of creating an alternative to the US via “a United States of Europe”, with a similar centralized strength and concentration of power in order to combat those other leviathans. more>

Are “net-zero” climate targets just hot air?

The US, Australia, Japan, and even Saudi Arabia are aiming for net-zero. Does it mean anything?
By Umair Irfan – Corporations and countries around the world are promising to eliminate their contributions to climate change. But many of their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are prefaced by a slippery phrase: “net-zero.”

More than 130 countries have set or are considering net-zero emissions goals, and many are stepping up as they prepare for next week’s COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. The United StatesNew ZealandCosta RicaJapan, and Argentina all aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The European Union aims to be “climate-neutral,” another way of framing net-zero. Even Russia and Saudi Arabia (the world’s top oil exporter) now have net-zero emissions targets.

Private companies are getting into the game, too. At least 20 percent of the 2,000 largest companies have set net-zero emissions targets, including giants like Apple, Ford, and Microsoft.

But “net-zero” is different from zero emissions, and this nebulous term can obscure a lot of important differences in how countries and companies actually plan to limit their contributions to climate change.

There are no standards that govern what activities actually count as net-zero. “The ‘net’ is always there in front of the ‘zero,’ but the ‘net’ part is a bit vague, especially with country-level commitments,” Derik Broekhoff, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, told Vox.

When a country aims for net-zero emissions — as opposed to simply zero emissions — it’s essentially promising to balance out its climate pollution, so that overall, it doesn’t harm the global climate. more>

Lebanon’s public debt default

By Ilias Bantekas – The nature and causes of sovereign debt differ from one country to another. Yet, the popular or engineered narrative of debt usually conceals its true origin or cause.

In the case of Lebanon, currently facing a financial and economic crisis ranked by the World Bank as possibly among the top three most severe global crises episodes since the mid-19th-century, one of the key lessons from the Greek experience is the importance of understanding the cause. The truth about how and why Lebanon reached the current debt crisis, including its suspension of a $1.2 billion Eurobond payment in March 2020, must precede any step toward recovery and restructuring under current solvency conditions.

A look at the Greek experience

At the time of Greece’s sovereign debt crisis, the popular narrative was that successive Greek governments had augmented the public sector and had exceeded their finances. This further supports the popular myth that people in the south of Europe are lazy, take long siestas, aspire to be civil servants, and that their governments are corrupt. Even so, an independent parliamentary committee set up in 2015 disproved this narrative.

The committee’s extensive findings clearly showed that the Greek public sector was the lowest spender among its then 27 European Union counterparts (apart from defense-related expenditures). In fact, until the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008, Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio was one of the lowest in Europe and certainly sustainable. So, why did it shoot through the roof the following year? This is because Greek banks had accumulated private debt (in the form of loans) to the tune of about €100 billion.

At the time, Greek banks had largely been acquired by French and German banks and hence the private (and now unsustainable) debt of Greek banks was about to become a Franco-German problem. Instead of this happening, the then-Greek prime minister was ‘convinced’ to nationalize Greek banks and thus transform a purely private debt into a public one. By so doing, it was now the Greek taxpayer that was saddled with the debt and the ensuing austerity this entailed, while Greek banks were restructured (effectively re-financed) and France and Germany were relieved. more>

Updates from McKinsey

A first step to racial equality? “Fundamentally improve job quality.”
MCKINSEY GLOBAL INSTITUTE – JP Julien was nine-years-old when he learned that place matters.

Now an associate partner, JP co-leads our Institute for Black Economic Mobility and led the research for The economic state of Black America: What it is and what it could be. In 1998, he and his Trinidadian American family of six moved from a low-income town in New Jersey to nearby Bloomfield. The 15 miles in between made a world of difference to his life.

Twenty percent of his first town’s residents lived below the poverty line at the time. The grocery store was a 20-minute drive away, and there were few nearby parks or playgrounds. “My mom took two buses to commute to work in New York City every day—sometimes 90 minutes one way,” he recalls.

Several years later, the family moved to Bloomfield, NJ, about a 20-minute drive away on the Garden State Parkway. “I remember the first day we moved in,” he says. “We had our own backyard, a bank on the corner, a diner a block away. My mom’s commuter train stop was a five-minute walk. My parents let me ride my bike throughout the neighborhood.”

“In third grade,” he adds, “I realized for the first time how important place was in shaping opportunity and your life. And so this research resonated with me on a very personal level.” more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Leading through Unprecedented Times
By Claire Zulkey – Classes for the 2021–22 school year don’t formally begin until September 27, but 40 second-year, Full-Time MBA students arrived on campus shortly after Labor Day to prepare for their role as LEAD facilitators. One of the first experiential MBA leadership development courses at a major business school, LEAD is an integral component of all MBA programs at Booth, with varied formats for Full-Time, Evening, Weekend, and Executive MBA cohorts. All first-year Booth students participate in LEAD, but only a select group of them come back as facilitators their second year to help mentor incoming students.

Traditionally, LEAD is conducted entirely in-person, and even includes an overnight trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where students participate in ropes courses, improv, scavenger hunts, ultimate frisbee, and other activities that foster collaboration, creativity, and camaraderie. Last year’s programming faced the challenge of moving online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even virtually, many first-year students gained valuable experience through the LEAD program, and were inspired to come back as LEAD facilitators this year. That includes Peter McNally, who recently completed a summer internship with the Boston Consulting Group. Prior to Booth, he built a research and consulting organization at the University of Pennsylvania focused on social issues around the globe.

“Last year’s LEAD facilitators did a good job making it feel welcoming. They brought a lot of enthusiasm and made it feel like this is a warm, positive space,” McNally says of his eight-person squad of other first-year students. “That’s easier said than done on Zoom.” He refers to each squad as “this little family.” He continues, “I’m not sure if this is something unique to Booth, but there’s a positive sense of competition: we want our cohort to be the happiest, the most welcoming.” more>