- October 1, 2023
- Category: Thought Leadership
What are the attributes of the art of “leadership” in today’s world? More and more articles attempt to dissect this concept, offering suggestions, theories and strategies, while discussing the skills that either propel individuals towards leadership positions or hinder their progress.
Many of these references often tread a well-worn path, filled with clichés and generalities. However, the road to top leadership positions has never been paved with platitudes – especially when it comes to the place where “the impossible becomes possible”: boardrooms.
Seeking a parallel course, a source of knowledge that is both potent and comprehensive, we discovered a podcast that introduces listeners to successful business executives renowned worldwide for their radical thinking. These leaders have forged impressive career trajectories, daring to challenge the status quo and emerging victorious. Their singular focus? It is encapsulated in the podcast’s very title: “Unlocking the Boardroom”.
“Unlocking the Boardroom” is not just another podcast; it is a platform where business luminaries discuss how to break down barriers and discover the uncharted territory within boardrooms. But how do they achieve this?
By shedding light on the key challenges within the ever-evolving business landscape. By highlighting the importance of diverging from conventional ways of thinking and acting to foster innovative perspectives, attitudes and practices.
Importantly, this recipe for success isn’t limited by gender, and “Unlocking the Boardroom” emphasizes this crucial point.
A Monthly Masterclass
“Unlocking the Boardroom” is not just your typical podcast; it is a monthly masterclass in audio format tailored for ambitious business executives who aspire to claim their seat at the boardroom.
The podcast’s host, Diana Markaki, founder of Boardroom, assembles the world’s most powerful corporate minds to collaboratively “unlock” the challenges and opportunities of a brave new world of business, writing the first “boardroom manual” for the next generation of leaders.
Each episode of this podcast focuses on a specific topic, specifically chosen to cater to the unique expertise of the guest. These business experts introduce listeners to the dynamic landscape in which they have been challenged and triumphed, distilling their wealth of experience and knowledge into a productive and engaging discussion.
Diana Markaki Sparks the Conversation…
In the inaugural episode, Diana Markaki, hostess of the podcast, hands over her role to Marianna Skylakaki, founder and CEO of athiNEA, an award-winning media and communications company.
During their conversation, she delves into the inspiration and purpose behind the “Unlocking the Boardroom” podcast.
The question posed to Diana Markaki is both reasonable and profound: “Do you aspire to open up the boardrooms to a new generation of leaders who may, currently, feel excluded?”.
Her response, short yet to the point, articulates what should be self-evident but regrettably remains rare – and therefore valuable – in an ever-evolving world brimming with fresh challenges and opportunities, seeking a shift in perspective:
“Simply achieving a specific percentage of women’s representation on boards is not enough. The most important – albeit arduous – task lies in cultivating an inclusive culture that treats every member, regardless of gender, as an equal party. Every individual should be free to voice their opinions and contribute their knowledge without restrictions. It is only through this approach that we can truly benefit from the added value of diversity at the board level.
[…] However, there is no manual for how to get there. There is no “how-to-guide” on how to prepare oneself to challenge for a seat at the decision-making table.
[…] While the professional experience of executives is valuable in the boardroom, the manner in which they operateas board members must fundamentally differ from the way they used to operate as executives.
[…] To become successful board members, executives need to undergo a mindset of shift and focus on the new roles and responsibilities inherent to this position”, highlights Markaki.
Growing up with what she calls a “strong sense of justice” and a desire to address the world’s most pressing problems, she left Greece for New York at the tender age of 21, embarking on a career as an international law attorney.
Her ascent to her first board seat at the age of 36 – a trailblazing feat as the sole woman and notably the youngest member on the board – planted the seed for the Boardroom, a private club / organization dedicated to empowering women who aspire to become board members, by equipping them with the requisite training, support, camaraderie, and networking opportunities. Already active in Switzerland and Greece, the organization has recently expanded its reach to Denmark and the UK, with imminent plans to extend its footprint to Belgium and France in the upcoming months.
A Pioneer Greek Podcast with a Global Impact
The mission of “Unlocking the Boardroom” is to serve as a trailblazing guiding light. And as the word “trailblazing” is deeply rooted in the human spirit – a testament to our ability to generate fresh ideas, craft new methodologies, and birth novel products, all while adapting to ever-evolving circumstances – the true value of this podcast is tied to its interviewees, experts who are celebrated on the global stage for embodying these very qualities.
In the 2nd episode, titled “Are you Ready to Serve on a Board”, Diana Markakis extends an invitation to Cindy Gallop to join the conversation. Before making her mark in the startup realm with the creation of MakeLoveNotPorn – a groundbreaking website that addresses human sexuality in a credible and authentic manner, directly challenging the conventions of the porn industry – Gallop served as the president of Bartle Bogle Hegarty US, a prominent advertising agency boasting a roster of high-profile clients.
Gallop’s journey took place in an industry that perpetually shapes our material world. “I have turned my values into my vocation,” she proclaims. “You must first define your core values, what you believe in and what you care about, so you can choose that particular company that aligns with your priorities and propels your career forward.” In Gallop’s view, we wield the power to design our own success, being the first to believe in our potential as board members capable of making meaningful contributions.
Εpisode 3, entitled “The Art and Science of Leadership”, is hosted by Shelley Zalis, founder and CEO of The Female Quotient. Her organization specializes in strategic collaborations with Fortune 500 companies, aimed at championing diversity and inclusion within the business world. Also known as the “Chief Troublemaker”, Shelley Zalis is an celebrated thought leader who not only understands the rules of business, but also knows how to “break” them when they can no longer apply!
“I didn’t follow the workplace rules written by men for men, a hundred years ago when women were scarcely present in the workplace” she says, prompting: “Follow your heart, not your head! Make the impossible, possible. That’s how I got the title Chief Troublemaker!”.
In the 4th episode, titled “What Does the Future of Work-Life Balance Look Like?”, Christine Armstrong, an acclaimed entrepreneur based in London, a researcher in the field of the future of work, an author and a vlogger,focuses on the balance between work and personal life.
Gifted with a terrific ability to summarize the key findings of her lengthy and complex research in a very simple and entertaining way, she chooses to steer the conversation towards the concept of “boundaries” instead of the more conventional “balance”. She believes that it is possible – and necessary – to draw boundaries between work and private life and that companies themselves can play a pivotal role in facilitating this endeavor by implementing effective time management strategies. According to her, achieving both productivity and employee satisfaction hinges on a well-defined organizational framework that distinguishes, among others, the working hours of focus and those designated for communication and other work-related activities.
In the 5th episode, “How Diversity on Boards Can Drive Business Success”, Andreas Utermann, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Vontobel Holding, former CEO of Allianz Global Investors, Governor of Birkbeck University in London and North London Collegiate School for Girls and founder of the FT Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign, is the guest speaker.
Surrounded by powerful women throughout his life – including his three daughters – Utermann is a fervent advocate of inclusivity within boardrooms. To him, diversity equips an organization with resilience, as it fosters a wealth of different perspectives, encourages questioning, and ultimately leads to synthesis. Homogeneity, on the other hand, carries the peril of uniform thinking, lacking the enriching tapestry of contradictions and disagreements that stimulate creativity and innovation.
In Episode 6, titled “Finance for Non-Finance Board Members,” Stuart Warner, finance expert and author of four books on finance, highlights the critical role of finance knowledge within any organization.
Stuart imparts highly valuable “navigational” material for board members. Drawing upon his wealth of experience, he finds that the real challenge lies in understanding the language of finance. He emphasizes that one of the top qualities of a successful board member is possessing the confidence to exercise “the right to ask”. In essence, board members should be empowered to pose pertinent questions that foster financial transparency and comprehension, ensuring the financial health and success of the organization.
Where can I listen to the “Unlocking the Boardroom” Podcast?
You can tune in to the first season of the “Unlocking the Boardroom” podcast on your preferred podcast platform. It’s readily available on popular channels including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. Remember to hit that subscribe button to stay updated and ensure you don’t miss out on upcoming episodes!