Chris Sibbald, Chair of the Financial Lunch talks about how the committee and Prince’s Trust Events team had to quickly adapt to ensure that this year’s event could go ahead albeit online.

Every year, The Prince’s Trust Scotland brings together 350 business leaders in Edinburgh for the Financial and Business Lunch, an engaging and provocative discussion on issues affecting young people. This year we had to operate differently, which saw us launching the inaugural Global Leadership Virtual Lunch.

Hosted by the BBC’s Scotland Editor, Sarah Smith, we were delighted to be welcome an exceptional panel of global business leaders, including Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Founder of Snoop, Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, and Kevin Sneader, Managing Partner of McKinsey & Co.

There was agreement that the crisis has brought about unfathomable disruption and change. As well as the health crisis, there is a real threat through the unemployment challenge whether due to businesses failing or increasing automation. All told, the risk will mean an exacerbation of the chronic inequalities across the country.

As one speaker remarked, this crisis has so far been more damaging than the Great Depression, at a faster pace than the financial crisis and it has created greater fear than 9/11.

There is obviously a lot of uncertainty but that doesn’t have to be a scary thing, as the great Yogi Berra said, ‘the future ain’t what it used to be’  

But the panel refused to let the uncertain backdrop define the future. The crisis has brought businesses closer, as colleagues engage more frequently and broadly, especially CEOs and leadership teams. Employee welfare and local communities have become the priority for organisations as they try to speak to their purpose with greater clarity and impact. Meanwhile businesses have adapted and innovated at a pace of change unheard of pre-pandemic.

This attitude bodes well for the entrepreneurial spirit that defines the values of The Prince’s Trust and the young people it seeks to help prosper.

The panel were unanimous in agreeing that good leadership in the new working environment meant regular and authentic communication, having clear purpose about who you are as a leader and what your business represents, be willing to show vulnerability as no leader can profess to seeing around corners, and, most importantly, show care and love to those around you.

Finally, the key takeaway advice from Jayne-Anne, Alan and Kevin, was:

  1. Explore new opportunities always whether it be new roles, new places or new people
  2. Be willing to take risks and expect the unexpected
  3. Never give up