McKinsey shares the power of Centered Leadership in Sri Lanka

Leading with the best version of oneself is empowering to say the least. McKinsey describes this as Centered Leadership, a McKinsey approach to leadership founded by director emeritus Joanna Barsh. “In a nutshell,” Barsh says, “centered leadership is mastery of your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions in pursuit of profound change that you’re hoping to enact in the organization or community in which you lead.” That could not have been more relevant to the more than 200 women and men who attended the Women Leadership Forum 2024, organized by the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) to celebrate International Women’s Day.

As thought partner to this event, McKinsey’s Vidhya Ganesan and Suchita Prasad brought Centered Leadership to this audience. “Earlier, the WCIC was thinking of a leadership panel, but we nudged them to bring something that we know has impact—and the outcome was a four-hour workshop with over 200 women and men allies across different sectors, industries and functions,” Prasad shared. And what a good decision that turned out to be. “This was a huge crowd for us,” she continues, “but we found that all the participants stayed in their seats, paid attention, actively worked on their exercises, took the time to reflect and share thoughts with peers. Post session, we received some terrific feedback and multiple opportunities to continue the conversation with individual clients.” Participants left with comments like they found the self-reflections “a good way to understand myself” and that they “realized the importance of energy in our lives”.

Earlier at the keynote address, WCIC Founder Director Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe looked at the issues and opportunities in Sri Lanka from the perspective of women. With inclusion for economic prosperity as the theme, the forum discussed gender parity, the situation in Sri Lanka where many women are not in the workforce, and what can be done to address this such as family friendly policies that support women balancing a job and family responsibilities. McKinsey’s Prasad adds, “Sri Lanka has seen a complex and evolving political, economic and social landscape over the last few years. What makes the difference in such times are centered leaders—the ability to achieve mastery over how we lead and live.”

To echo the words of Barsh, “What that means is to be at your best more of the time, to feel that you’re both grounded but able to get above the fray. It means that you’re operating from strength. You have a positive framing of the situation. You feel connected to the people around you. You’re fully engaged, both your right and left brain. You’re energized, too, and that energy is contagious to others.”