Leadership Speaker Contest 2023

Ritu G. Mehrish – Leader’s Block – The Opposite of Potential

Ritu G. Mehrish is a Singaporean executive and team coach, speaker, and author. She took part in the Speaker Contest Final on the 10th of May 2023, and here are the main takeaways from her keynote “Leader’s Block – The Opposite of Potential”!

If you wish, you can watch the keynote here:

“What if I told you that the number one reason for unproductivity in leaders doesn’t even have a name,” Ritu began her speech. According to her, this is something extremely costly to businesses and exists in most, if not all, organizations. She calls this phenomenon “leader’s block” in analogy to writer’s block. By giving it a name, it is easier to recognize the problem and do something about it.

“Unless we name something, we don’t recognize it.”

Leader’s Block happens when leaders feel unmotivated, disengaged, and unproductive but can’t find any reason for it. Ritu has talked to thousands of leaders who have experienced this, and yet, it is not widely acknowledged. Ritu even admits that she has experienced this condition herself. She remembered a time when her manager called her in and told that some people in her team wanted to move out because they weren’t happy with her leadership. This was a mere five years after her team members had praised her to the same manager. What followed was one of the most difficult times in her career, and it took her more than six months to recover from it. “Leading teams was my biggest strength, and now, I seem to have lost all confidence.”

This painful experience led her to investigate the topic further. She found out that
there are several common triggers for a Leader’s Block, including sudden change, clashing working styles, or role fatigue, which she experienced herself. Whatever the reason, this has a ripple effect on the whole team and can manifest as slacking, unproductivity, and a lack of motivation in a team. Leader’s Block also has effects on the whole organization, including tangible costs and intangible effects like eroding values, bad business decisions, and dysfunctional teams.

“There is no way that organizations today can afford to ignore Leader’s Block.”

According to Ritu, if Leader’s Block is not addressed, it may cause anxiety, burnout,
and even depression. Once leaders and organizations acknowledge that something is wrong and recognize Leader’s Block, there are five approaches that can help them to get through it. During her keynote, Ritu discussed three of them:

1. Let it go: Leaders have a bias for action and want to be in control. “Sometimes the best thing to do is not do anything,” Ritu advised. Especially when something happens that is not in your control, it is best to let it go.

2. Seek out feedback: Reaching out to people who you trust gives you good advice and accountability partners, shared leaders who are interested in your progress and help you get through it.

3. Change lanes: Leader’s Block can reveal new perspectives and new opportunities. It can act as a catalyst for learning and improvement as a leader. “Use this opportunity to make that change you’ve always wanted to make,” Ritu said.

Finally, Ritu stated that leaders often come out of Leader’s Block better than they ever were before. “Please join me in taking the conversation about Leader’s Block from closed doors to open corridors,” she concluded.

On the 10th of May at 18:00 EEST in Helsinki, we got to experience an inspiring and exhilarating evening with five incredible Speaker Contest 2023 finalists. All of them gave impeccable speeches, however, our jury and audience could only choose one winner. Maryna Saprykina, a Ukrainian sustainability consultant, won the competition with her keynote “Sustainability in the Times of War.” We will be hearing from her again next September at Oslo, Amsterdam, and Nordic Business Forum.

But right now, we have other amazing speeches to learn from! You can find the summaries and videos from our other Speaker Contest finalists here:

Tobias Sturesson – How to Overcome Your Company’s Greatest Culture Challenges

Pep Rosenfeld – Leadership Lessons From 20 Years of Business Events

Thijs Launspach – What We Get Wrong About Stress


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