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What if your leadership and actions could change the world? What would you do? Where would you start?

Kudos to Karen Beattie and her team at The Growth Faculty for the Global Leadership Forum staged yesterday in Sydney.  I’m still thinking about all the amazing stories I heard from the stellar line up; and asking how can I apply their lessons and thinking to my own career?

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to anchor the difference that someone as insignificant as me could make, in the shadow of such visionary leaders. 

But then again, when you hear from any extraordinary leader there’s usually a very ordinary story to begin: about a simple idea, well executed, and followed through consistently.  To this end, there’s much to share – and learn – from the conference speakers yesterday.

Take Martha Stewart who shared how she went from a very modust upbringing to modeling Chanel to stock broking on Wall Street, before becoming a global lifestyle brand icon over a career spanning more than 50 years.  At age 70 she’s still confident, curious and more ambitious than ever.  And proud of the special touch of “Martha” she’s brought to the lives and homes of millions of mostly-women who have read her books and magazines; watched her TV shows; visited her websites; downloaded her apps; bought her lifestyle products to brighten up their days; and just been inspired by someone who loves bringing joy to the audiences she serves.  Here is a woman who is an early adopter of technology – from buying her first IBM computer in 1982 to launching the first synergistic media strategy in the 1990’s complementing her TV shows and magazines with online presence; and now with the shift to smart phones and tablets, developing the most popular – and profitable – apps available in the download marketplace of today.  Constant innovation to “match what people want with they need and where they want to get it”.

Then there’s actor and activist George Clooney whose work with the Not On Our Watch Project is saving lives in Sudan.  When Clooney saw first hand the devastation of civil war in Sudan – while the perpetrators went about their business unnoticed – he asked a simple question: why can’t authorities track the War Lords in Sudan the same way anyone else could view his own home on Google Maps? That would be fair, he thought.  Then followed conversations with Google and satellite owners… and the end result is a satellite tracking system that is monitoring civil unrest in real time, and resulting in War Lords being tried and convicted of war crimes by the UN in The Hague.  New world thinking to an all-time problem. 

Nobel Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus is perhaps the most understated leader of all time.  That he had the foresight some 35 years ago to save millions of Bangladeshis from the poverty cycle by pioneering microfinance and social business with the Grameen Bank is remarkable; that he’s been able to convince corporates the world over to apply their intelligence and technology to solving the world’s problems with social business solutions is pure genius.  It’s certainly proof – from a Professor of Economics who cared enough to make a difference – that long-held beliefs and theories can always be challenged and that the results can change the world.

Then there’s Russell Simmons.  I didn’t know this until yesterday, but I have Simmons to thank for one of my happiest childhood memories: the well-rehearsed performances by my mate Verran and I – in the loungeroom of my family home – of Run DMC’s “Walk This Way”.  My first taste of hip-hop and this white kid really didn’t have the moves… but I loved it all the same!  Simmons fell in love with hip-hop when he was in College, and then allowed us all to love it too by taking hip-hop from the slums of Harlem to mainstream culture the world over. In the process he united people of all races, classes and creeds in a love of rhythm and poetry.  He’s responsible for a generation that is multi-racial but singularly cultural, and he’s challenged paradigms over the past four decades in the fields of music, fashion and now financial services.  No wonder he’s been named one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People in the past 25 years”, and he’s not done yet…

We also heard from Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor who created the world’s first online job ad site that has since changed job seeking the world-over.  He followed his dream despite being told in the early days of the world wide web that “it would never work” because “no one would ever look for a job while they’re at work” – which of course was the only place that most of us could access emails before the days of smart phones and iPads.  Wow… remember way back when???

Then Michael Fertik left us with a parting cautionary warning: that the emerging world of online reputation will be both a big opportunity and a big threat for our personal and business brands.  In other words, it’s no longer just about what we each say and do online, but it matters too what others say about us and that will impact us more than we think – for referrals, sales, job seeking, you name it…  Thinking about how far the world has come since Jeff Taylor’s premonition of an online world; I wonder what we’ll say about Fertik’s clairvoyance in five years time…

So many lessons… so many ideas… so many opportunities…  Now where to begin?

Your thoughts?

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