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Interview with Emmanuel Gobillot

Emmanuel Gobillot talks about leadership skills needed in a global world, his experiences as a speaker, and the importance of humor. Read on below.

Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?

Every speaking engagement is different and every single one has always been fascinating. I love hearing other speakers and integrating my thoughts and ideas with theirs so as to help participants create something unique in their organisation. I recently did a “double act” with Fons Trompenaars (the culture guru) which was fun as we got to play with each others’ ideas and thoughts. I also spoke at an event recently in Prague where I was given a three hour time slot (a luxury in our business) which means I had a chance to interact with the audience and really work with them to make my ideas practical for them, in their context. The best events are those where I get the chance to interact with the organisers and understand what they want to achieve so I can tailor my intervention.

How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?

There have been a number of research papers into the role humour plays in leadership and all have showed both correlation and causality between humour and high performance. Humour is fundamentally a trick of the brain, usually based on the collision of different propositions which when put together surprise us (hence the fact that we laugh as a reaction). Because humour engages and refreshes, it is, in my view, a critical element of a speaker’s toolkit. The trick is to make a speech fun and informative at the same time. The fun ensures engagement with the ideas and increases the chances of implementation.

What skills are needed to be a good leader in today’s increasingly international world?

You are right to point to internationalisation as the key disruptor to established leadership recipes. Many people will tell you that the rate of change has increased. I doubt that is true. Anyone alive at any point probably feels that the world is changing around them. What is truly different today is the diversity we encounter in our working life. Navigating this increasingly complex landscape requires a huge degree of self awareness (in order to understand the drivers for our thoughts and actions) along with the ability to listen to hear and understand rather than to argue or reload (which, in my experience too many leaders still do). It is only through that process that constructive conversations will emerge rather than clashes of culture based on fundamental misunderstandings. The more we talk the faster our actions will yield results.

How do you keep yourself up-to-date on the newest leadership models and theories?

I divide my time into three. I spend a third of it researching and writing. I read a huge amount and maintain a database of interesting things that are happening in the world of business to spot emerging trends. I also spend a third of my time speaking at events where I get to hear from other speakers and audiences on their main concerns and emerging issues. Finally I spend a third of my time consulting which enables me to not only see what is going on on the ground but also to develop new ideas and models practical for clients (which in turn feed my writing and speaking). This cycle has worked well for me over the years. The key driver to all of it is curiosity and love for what I do.

Why should clients use you for their next event?

Thats a difficult question to answer without sounding like an advert! Fundamentally I do think there are two things that should go into choosing a speaker – content and fit. In terms of content I do believe that I bring a fresh approach to leadership and collaboration borne out of sound research but adapted to the practical needs of my audiences. I work to engage and inspire but recognise that inspiration without implementation is a missed opportunity. In terms of fit I do believe in practising what I preach so I aim to collaborate with the organisers and to develop something that will make their event unique. I also have a view that it is only appropriate for me to accept engagements I believe I can contribute to so there is no harm in at least getting into a conversation!

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