Jack Uldrich - writer, speaker and consultant to Fortune 500 companies, US government agencies and venture capital firms – is to be a keynote speaker at the 7 December seminar on Business Leadership at the Foundation for International Studies. Here he answers some questions about his latest book and how its lessons can be applied to the business environment in Malta
Briefly can you explain what the Lewis and Clark expedition was and why it was such a historic development?
200 years ago, at the request of President Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark ventured out into the unknown for the purpose of documenting the vast, unexplored territory between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.
In so doing, they not only set America on it westward path, they also ensured that the Pacific Northwest (essentially the states of California, Oregon and Washington) was claimed by America - as opposed to Britain, Spain or Russia.
How can the same leadership skills applicable 200 years ago also be relevant to today's leaders?
For 863 days over 8,000 miles of forbidding terrain, Lewis and Clark led an incredibly diverse team toward a goal, that in its time, was the equivalent of man landing on the moon.
And while the challenges we face in modern times are obviously different than those Lewis and Clark faced, the leadership principles are timeless. For instance, Lewis and Clark had to: think strategically, surround themselves with good people, make tough and timely choices, manage resources, motivate their team, interact with different cultures, handle adversity, try new approaches and balance long-term interests with short-term realities.
Apart from various large companies, Malta’s business community is mainly made up of micro-businesses and SMEs. Is leadership also an issue with small organisations?
Leadership is an issue regardless of the size of an organisation. In fact, because small organisations often face greater challenges and because they must move faster than their larger competitors in order to survive, it could be argued that leadership is even more important for smaller organisations.
Maltese businesses are currently facing some major challenges due to globalisation and accession to the European Union. Do you feel that for us to change these challenges into opportunities we must also re-engineer our concept of leadership?
Yes. One of the things that made Lewis and Clark so unique was the fact that they shared leadership. I think that the idea that a single leader can possess all the skills necessary to lead an organisation is an outdated notion.
The world is an increasingly complex place and changes are occurring on an almost exponential basis. If organisations are to survive, leadership must be shared. Co-leaders must still share a common vision, but the organisation will benefit significantly if the co-leaders also possess unique and different skills and talents.
What role does vision play in successful modern leadership?
Vision is vital. Lewis and Clark didn't know exactly where they were headed when they departed, but they did know what they wanted to accomplish - they wanted to reach the Pacific Ocean and, in the process, secure the new territory for America.
It was this vision that kept them motivated when times got tough and when they faced great challenges and encountered formidable obstacles.
Malta is a frontier country at the crossroads of civilisation. Lewis and Clark were also successful frontiersmen. Do you think that their leadership skills could also help Malta to develop as a centre of business services in the Mediterranean region?
Yes. As I said earlier, while the challenges of the twenty-first century are much different than those Lewis and Clark faced, the leadership principles they employed are timeless. And just like Lewis and Clark led a small, diverse team into the unknown and succeeded in the face of great challenges, I am confident Malta - with the right leadership - can do the same.