Driven: How to fuel success through adversity

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Watch season 4, episode 4 of Leadership in Extraordinary Times

or listen on Apple or Spotify

For two leaders who are literally used to life in the fast lane, the enforced slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic presented both personal and organisational challenges. But, as the Leadership in Extraordinary Times broadcast on 1 June 2021 revealed, there were some unexpected opportunities too.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, and Tengku Muhammad Taufik, CEO of Petronas, the Malaysian oil company, are jointly responsible for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas partnership which has achieved a record-breaking seven consecutive double F1 World Championship titles. They spoke to Michael Smets, Professor of Management at Oxford Saïd, and Marya Besharov, Professor of Organisations and Impact, in a wide-ranging discussion that revealed some key lessons for leaders in any sector about leading through adversity.

Creating space

The role of the leader is not just that of a ‘visionary, out in front, leading the charge’, but also that of a facilitator, someone who creates space in which others can engage. Leaders need to listen to others and allow them to find their own roles and ways of aligning with the organisation.

Finding distance

Many leaders in competitive industries are used to working under constant pressure in the thick of the action (‘on the dancefloor’) – sometimes to the detriment of their own mental health and that of the organisation. It is important also to be able to step on to ‘the balcony’ to see the bigger picture and think about the future.

Creating a learning environment

People have to feel comfortable speaking up, saying they made a mistake, or that they almost made a mistake. These are opportunities to learn and to adapt to improve performance; they also encourage people to take risks, which is important for innovation.