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Developing Leaders to Shape The Future Of Energy

By Ana Fonseca Nordang, Vice President, People and Leadership, Executive and Leadership Development, Equinor

Ana Fonseca Nordang, Vice President, People and Leadership, Executive and Leadership Development, Equinor

My kids spent their summer vacation playing games with their cousins. They built alliances, and they strategized. The older ones shifted from bossing the younger ones around to coaching and supporting, and they naturally changed roles to improve their skills and impact. With my leadership development hat on, it was very apparent to me how they grew during the summer and the multitude of games they played with one another enabled them to nourish and demonstrate early signs of leadership.

"Like in Go Fish, companies today need to be ever so diligent in looking into the depth and breadth of their pipeline to scout and find hidden talent"

Against that backdrop, I have been reflecting about whether we can also learn from games in how we develop leaders. Companies like Equinor rely on leadership as one of the strongest pillars for a strong and sustainable future. Effectively anchoring leadership development to strategic deployment, diversity, competence building, and deliberate talent scouting is key to success.

Much of what companies do to leverage strategic deployment towards leadership development, resembles the principles of very familiar games. In the game Jenga, for example, players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of many blocks and place them on top of the tower. Players must identify the best blocks to move that will maintain the stability of the structure but build it to greater heights.

The essence of strategic deployment is an attempt to build a talent tower with the strongest teams – and at Equinor we believe that teams with a diversity of competence, experience, background, gender, ethnicity and more, have a greater business impact. We believe that diverse teams drive innovation, creativity, and make better business decisions ultimately impacting the bottom line. The leadership team of our international business has leaders from five different nationalities, gender balance, with professional competence in areas as diverse as finance, business development, drilling & well, security, and law.

As companies like Equinor continue to expand globally, into different market sectors and value chains, we need to build talent towers that help leverage what is an increasingly diverse workforce while continuously focusing on strengthening a culture of inclusion.

Against that background, we have set an ambition at Equinor that by 2025 our teams will be diverse and inclusive-we believe that strength lies in our differences, not our similarities.

A robust leadership strategy also requires companies to be strategic about the placement of strong leaders to drive organizational outcomes while developing new skills. We can draw several important leadership lessons from chess - companies need to make the best possible moves with their key leaders, to enable quality development at pace, and plan beyond the next move.

To plan these strategic chess moves, companies need to know their leaders – their leadership capabilities, as well as the competence and experience needs that will accelerate their development journey. At Equinor, our leadership profile outlines clear expectations for our leaders. We expect our leaders to shape the future of energy, empower and develop their people, and deliver results. Equinor’s Leadership Academy assesses our leaders on these expectations so that we can objectively inform their development plans in a fact-based and constructive manner. We help our leaders understand their strengths and development needs to support them in their leadership journey.

In the classic video game Age of Empires, players need equal focus on building and running an empire while watching out and calculating future waves that may hit. Rather than avoiding obstacles, players need to strengthen and prepare for transformation.

In the same light, leaders are change agents in organizations. They enable our people to understand, assimilate and live the transformation towards the evolving reality of our world. Digitalization is one such change wave that is engulfing all organizations, and the ability of our leaders to drive new ways of working is a key catalyst to our survival. Strategic deployment of our leaders is also an important tool to strengthen the ability to lead transformation, by moving them into roles and projects that transcend the traditional boundaries of function, discipline and expertise.

Lastly, companies need to ensure a long-term perspective in their leadership strategies. It is not simply about the few strong leaders you know, but also the talent that is hidden deep within and outside the organization that will help you further strengthen your leadership bench. Like in Go Fish, companies today need to be ever so diligent in looking into the depth and breadth of their pipeline to scout and find hidden talent. Leverage your networks to identify hidden gems. Do you need a highly skilled leader who has the potential to lead your company in the future? Go Fish.

At Equinor, our overall objective is to grow talent into leaders who will shape the future of energy. That demands a holistic leadership development approach- building capability through strategic deployment, maximizing the potential of diversity, with an understanding of our leaders’ strengths and development needs, and empowered by scouting talent from every corner of our organization.

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