Holly Ransom interviews Barack Obama: Key lesson? Avoid complacency

Holly Ransom interviews Barack Obama: Key lesson? Avoid complacency

I found something particularly reassuring in the fact it was Holly Ransom who interviewed former US president Barack Obama live on stage in Sydney on Friday night.

That’s because I see Holly as a new kind of leader and a fresh voice. She’s optimistic and positive, but realistic. A mentor and a mentee. She brings a much needed female, millennial voice to conversations on leadership — and frankly we don’t get to experience that enough, especially at high profile events. This showed in her line of questioning (sadly, I wasn’t there but have since heard), which focused on innovation, diversity and leadership.

Parts of the conversation during the private and invitation-only event supported by Mastercard have been shared over social media, and of course I’m encouraged by Obama highlighting the importance of getting a diverse range of people involved in leadership and on boards.

According to City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster on Twitter, Obama said that: “When I say that companies need women on boards it’s not for charity — those companies run better.”

But I also wanted to hear Holly’s experiences of the conversation, so reached out to her this morning.

She said that coming up with questions to ask Obama was one of “the most simultaneously exhilarating and daunting tasks” she’s ever had.

Asked what kind of lessons she took away from the session, she said that three days later she’s been reflecting on remarks he gave about how critical it is that every one of us safeguards against complacency.

“That we understand progress isn’t a foregone conclusion and that we work to enable the conditions that allow it to flourish, every day,” Ransom said.

“Specifically, the president talked about leaders empowering diversity (including appointing women and people from different cultures to leadership roles; engaging the contribution of the next generation), investing in the community you live in (capacity building and civic engagement were strong themes) and embracing innovation and challenging ourselves to continue to press for a better way.”

Ransom’s previously met Obama as co-chair of the youth G20. She’s also met the Queen, Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson and been called on for help by a number of prime ministers.

Recently on Women’s Agenda, we recently named Ransom as one of 30 women setting the agenda for business in Australia in 2018.

She told us at the time that she’s currently working on a new book for leaders on how to lead effectively in the rapidly transforming new economy. She’s  also growing her international client base and developing online learning programs.

In the startup world, she’s developing a practical checklist that can help founders embrace diversity and inclusion from the get-go. One of her chief goals is to see greater VC investments in female-led businesses, along with a diversity lens being applied all over corporate and government procurement.

An excellent choice. Let’s get more young women into high-profile conversations on leadership, innovation and diversity.

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