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One Minute with World Affairs Speaker Professor Andrew MacLeod | Humanitarian, Government & Business Expert - 16 November 2018

One Minute with World Affairs Speaker Professor Andrew MacLeod | Humanitarian, Government & Business Expert

He predicted Trump, predicted Brexit and now has a compelling narrative for what is next. Professor Andrew MacLeod brings a perspective few can match from a career spanning humanitarian, government and business. He has a deep understanding of today’s changing geopolitics and what this means for people, businesses and governments. He’s worked as a high-level humanitarian official with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations through wars and natural disasters, creating leadership lessons that leave people enthralled.

Here Andrew discusses current and future global risks, leadership and balancing corporate profitability with community engagement.

You have a reputation for predicting major world events with some accuracy, how do you see the next 5 years playing out?

Really exciting - but remember the curse about living in interesting times!

The world is going through what I call the sixth great human transition: Egyptians to Greeks, Greeks to Romans, Romans to Zoroastrians, Zoroastrians to Muslims, Muslims to Christians and now Christians to Chinese. These are all world-changing transitions of dominance. The others took centuries. This one is taking 20 years and we are already halfway through it. By example, have you heard of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation? Based in China, including Russia, India, Pakistan and the Central Asian states. More than 50% of the global population and approaching 50% of the global economy in purchase parity terms, yet we still think the G 7 and the G 20 dominate.

So over the next 5 years, assuming Trump does two terms (which I still think is more likely than not), by the end of that time the US global standing will be lessened, the Chinese will be higher and Germany will have lost Merkle. So who will the ‘leader of the free world’ be?

The next 5 years will see accelerating uncertainty and a faster shift to the importance of the Asia Pacific region. Markets will continue to grow. I think we will (just) avoid a major shooting war, but economic ‘wars’ will remain in the spotlight. Meanwhile, China will be happy for the US to ‘re-shore’ the low paid low skilled manufacturing jobs as it transitions into a more high-value exporter, much as Japan did in the 1980s.

What are the current and future global risks that you are currently speaking about?

We are the first generation that will live through a complete transition and be aware of it. So what does that mean? Where will the economic, political and geostrategic changes be? How well placed are you and your business for this change?

Australia is at the forefront of this change. 49% of our population is either born overseas or with one parent born overseas. Our largest immigrant and tourist groups are from India and China. If we are consumer-facing businesses, are we ready for that? If we are service business, how are we adjusting our recruitment practices for that?

And consider this: The Indian migrants to Australia are the first mass migrants in human history where the average net worth of the migrant exceeds the average net worth of the host country. We are also the largest destination for Chinese millionaire migrants. We are getting the high-value intakes! What does this mean for you?

You must have faced some challenging situations in your time with the Red Cross and United Nations, what major life lessons have you learnt in this time?

Wow, big question.

Lesson one: People are just people. Almost every person in the world, regardless of economic or cultural background, wants the same thing: 'A better future for my kids'. But people strongly differ on what 'better' means.

Lesson two: A smile and genuine interest in people can get you out of a lot of dodgy circumstances - especially once you make it clear you are Australian and not American!

Lesson three: Perhaps this is the most important one. Every culture has cultural arrogance - including ours. The Europeans culture (from which Australia still descends - just) called the years 400-1400 the 'Dark ages' because 'the world went backwards'. The world did NOT go backwards. Just we did. We had a failure to recognise enormous progress in science, economics, mathematics, from outside our culture. We are repeating that same mistake today by not understanding the enormous progress in sub-Saharan Africa, the impact of China’s Belt and Road, and seeing that historically 'our culture' is not the dominant one for the future.

But, if we change before others do, Australia can really take advantage.

How is it possible for corporations to balance profitability with community engagement?

It is not a binary question. You do not have to balance profit with the community. You can get both done. BHP Billiton creates a profitable way of reducing Malaria in Mozambique, for example. Good community relations lowers risk of operations, which increases risk-adjusted returns. Indeed, a pool of ethical investment funds has outperformed the market for each of the previous 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15 years.

So I strongly challenge the premise of the question. If a company understands its external footprint, then it can become more profitable by doing good in the community.

Failures in understanding community and ethics cost a fortune. If you doubt that, I have just two letters for you: V and W.

What do you see as the key to being a successful leader?

Empathy with your staff, focussing on a clear goal, making sure your team all understand their roles in achieving that goal, and then either leading from in front, beside or behind, depending on the needs of individual team members and the challenge that you are facing.

Discover more about Professor Andrew MacLeod here.

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