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Home  > Article

Growing People Will Make You Great

By Amber Barron

Experience chose me to attend the World Business Forum in New York City this October with Alan Greenspan, Jack Welch, Chris Anderson, Garry Kasparov, Michael Eisner and Kofi Annan!

Let me start by saying New York and the entire experience were amazing. I stayed at the Rockefeller Center Hotel and walked around the block to Radio City Music Hall for the Forum each day. During my stay, I attended a cocktail reception and two lunches as part of the VIP package. The food was perfection, the view of the city from the Pegasus Suite was stunning, and the VIP lounge with its gourmet appetizers, coffee and wine provided a relaxed environment to network with other VIPs during breaks.  Most importantly, the speakers were dynamic and relevant, and I made some wonderful connections.

I applied for this opportunity hoping that, if chosen, I would gain some insight I could take back home to Freedom's Promise, my newly founded non-profit which is dedicated to rescuing women and children affected by the human trafficking trade, one of the largest, and fastest growing, criminal industries in the world. 

The Forum's focus this year was leadership, and as I reflect on the themes that surfaced during each presentation I found that they are all applicable to the growth of Freedom's Promise and positioning the organization globally, and are qualities that I want to embody as a leader not only in my organization but also in my personal life.  The power of the people was a popular theme at the conference, and was touched upon by several of the panelists.

"Growing people is what will make you great."- Jack Welch, former CEO of GE.  When looking for a good leader, Mr. Welch hires someone who is genuine, displays resilience and sees around corners. He says the biggest downfall of a leader is hubris -- thinking you have all the answers. I am definitely a glass half full type of person so it will be critical for me to surround myself with team members that will not be afraid to shoot holes in my plans so that we will be able to make solid decisions. Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, said, "The business of business is people--employees come first!" The Southwest model is a people empowered, energetic and fun-loving environment where the focus is not on the tangible, which can be purchased, but on the customer experiencing the warmth and hospitality of happy employees!   

Editor and chief of Wired Magazine, and author of The Long Tail, Chris Anderson spoke during our VIP lunch session and the closing session on Wednesday. He showed us the power of the blogger; there are currently over 10 million blogs, some of which are receiving more hits than the Wall Street Journal and other major institutions. Anyone can write and have the world's ear; I am embracing this trend and have started a Trafficking 101 blog to raise awareness of the issues surrounding human trafficking.

Now, so far I have shared what is applicable to my non-profit and to me personally but I don't want to leave you leaders of for-profit companies hanging. There are some very important business trends that will impact companies in the coming months and years. Going green is the future! Several speakers spoke to the importance of corporate social responsibility. Consumers are becoming more and more passionate about the environment and social responsibility, and they are less likely to purchase products from companies that do not promote themselves as green friendly. The government is also beginning to crack down on carbon emissions so follow Mr. Welch's advice and start looking around the corner to see how this trend is going to affect business.

Several speakers addressed these issues and stressed the need to pay attention to corporate responsibility. People want to work for an organization that has a prominent cause in the community. For instance, Intel is taking buses with computers to schools in villages across the globe and working to change the education system in America.  Mr. Barrett, the Chairman of Intel, also challenged us to begin shaping future talent. Intel recruits freshman and sophomores for internships before they choose their majors. It is critical for companies to think outside the box, be creative and realize the potential for your organization to become more successful as you invest in your communities and in tomorrow's work force. 

The up and coming work force "talent" (as referred to by Craig Barrett) are the most gifted, high maintenance workforce seen to date. They can and will require more out of their employer, from green friendly to socially responsible, to flexible work environments. For those of you just entering the workforce Mr. Welch had exceptional advice -- he encourages you to over-deliver in your new jobs. This is good advice even if you've already been in the work force for a few years. According to Mr. Welch, "When you go to your next job, and your boss says get these two things in order, you get two more and make it four. Your job is to teach them things they don't know, take all that enthusiasm that you've learned the last four years, and always give your boss more than they ask for."

Oh, by the way, I did shake hands with Kofi Annan and asked him for counsel on how best to interact with other NGOs and governments as I go forward in my work with Freedom's Promise. He talked about the importance of addressing the issue of trafficking and encouraged me to contact the International Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which is a function of the United Nations. 

This was an incredible opportunity and I am so grateful to for deciding to send me. I have a much better footing to build a foundation for Freedom's Promise and the experience was just plain fun!

For more information about trafficking go to  

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