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Lessons in leadership – SHIFT Business Festival

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In the last week of August, Kamil and I headed to Turku for the Shift Business festival, which was organized in Kakola’s former prison. Over the course of two days, we learned more about leadership, digitalization, and sustainability and of course met many new people, some old friends and few Proakatemia alumni as well.

In this essay I will focus on the themes of leadership through two discussions: a panel discussion on the topic of leadership in digitalized world and a business talk on leading businesses through crazy times by Helene Auramo.

My key learnings about leadership from SHIFT

On the first day, we listened to a panel discussion on the topic of leadership in digitalized world – what is the role of leadership in tomorrow’s organizations? The participants in the panel discussion were Carl Haglund (CEO at Veritas Pension Insurance), Niko Kyynäräinen (Director of Business and Economic Development at City of Turku), Henna Niiranen (Chief Business Officer at Vincit) and Taneli Rantala (CEO at Lifted). So, quite a few different leaders sharing thoughts about leadership.

Before we jump into leadership, what are the elements of tomorrow’s organizations? The speakers mentioned at least the increasing prevalence of remote work, internationalization, and the new needs in terms of leadership. For example, Niko Kyynäräinen mentioned that Finnish society must move to more multicultural direction so that we have enough workforce and experts in the future. English is already the official language of many companies, but Kyynäräinen stressed that cities should also move to more multicultural direction to enable English-speaking employees to work. The whole public sector has to change to be able to get workforce in the future. (Kyynäräinen 2022.)

We don’t always have control over change, but our reactions to disruptions define our qualities as leaders. What are the things leaders need to consider in these tomorrow’s organizations or in the era of the new normal?

Courage to build own company culture and values.  The company’s values ​​and culture cannot be copied from elsewhere, they are built over time. On the other hand, it is worth using courage and creating a culture that suits the company. Especially leaders need to think how to implement the company culture, values, and strategy. Carl Haglund explained that for example strategies should be simple enough so that everyone understands their own role in implementing the strategy. (Haglund 2022.) The same is certainly true when speaking about values.

A company’s culture is created above all through people. Haglund explained in the panel discussion, that they believe in bringing the people together – there is a certain power and creativity when people work in together in teams that can’t be reached when working alone. Even though the world has changed, and remote work is coming more common, we still need each other. (Haglund 2022.) This can also be supported by the company culture and values.

Actions based on values. When talking about actions and values it is important to remember that as leaders, only spoken words and actions count. In the future you need to work a lot as an employer to attract people to work in your company and company’s actions based on values play a huge role in that. Henna Niiranen explained that for example Vincit is seen as an attractive place to work because they are constantly focusing on people’s wellbeing, having also fun together and creating a sense of meaningfulness for the people working at Vincit (Niiranen 2022).

Values are something that also Helene Auramo, founder and CEO of Prönö, mentioned in her business talk about Leading businesses through crazy times. Auramo explained that companies and leaders should put their purpose front and centre. When the times are hard, it’s easier to continue if you have a clear purpose and values (Auramo 2022).

Will to work on leadership skills. The younger generation needs to be led in a different way than before and not everyone wants to be led in a same way. This requires that leaders are ready to develop themselves as leaders.

Especially Niiranen emphasized that leaders need to know their people and what they need (Niiranen 2022). This is something Auramo shared in her presentation as well. Leaders should empower the people and get to know what people really want to learn and do (Auramo 2022). Also Taneli Rantala emphasized in the panel discussion that the hunger for development and trust are the key values for both leaders and the companies (Rantala 2022).

The four panelists of the leadership panel discussion emphasized that the humane side of leadership is the most important thing. Auramo mentioned this in her business talk as well. According to Auramo, humane business is built on humane strengths like kindness. Auramo also explained the idea of servant leadership, a philosophy in which the leader’s goal is to serve. A servant leadership focuses on the well-being and growth of people. (Auramo 2022.)

Transparency, trust, and dialogue skills. Auramo mentioned in her business talk that leaders should make sure their team is alright. She encouraged the leaders to be more like coaches for their teams and figure out what people really want to do to be able to truly support them. On the other hand, leaders should also make sure that they are themselves feeling well. (Auramo 2022.) These actions require trust and transparency which are overall important elements in company’s culture.

To sum up

Having a humane approach to leadership is something that I took with me from these two discussions. I think my own approach to leadership is very humane and empathetic already, but it’s definitely a topic I want to keep exploring more. In general, it was interesting to hear thoughts from different kinds of leaders. The various discussions at the festival also confirmed my thoughts that leadership interests me as a future opportunity.

Once again, I want to encourage people to visit these kinds of events and gather information and build networks outside Proakatemia. We learned a lot about leadership, but also gained valuable experience about how to present our project, how to build connections and how to get off from our comfort zone.


Auramo, H. CEO. 2022. Leading businesses through crazy times. Business talk. Shift Business Festival. 24.8.2022. Turku.

Haglund, C., Kyynäräinen, N., Niiranen, H., & Rantala, T. 2022. Leadership in digitalized world – what is the role of leadership in tomorrow’s organizations? Panel discussion. Shift Business Festival. 24.8.2022. Turku.

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