9 Leadership Lessons for 2023

Industry professionals reflect on what executives must do to ensure success for their businesses in 2023.

Photo Credit: Mariia for Adobe Stock

As the year ends and people are looking for more basic humanity, common sense, wisdom and integrity from their peers and leaders, the IMEX Group asked some partners and speakers for their reflections on leadership.

Rather than trendspotting for 2023, they were given a different prompt: Describe what you believe the best leaders must do in 2023 to ensure greater business success and prosperity for all. (The key being the word "all." Progress and prosperity for a lucky few doesn’t count.)

IMEX doesn’t doubt great leaders exist. Indeed, many of those who work in the global business-events industry have firsthand experience that proves they do.

1. Andy Sharpe, CEO, Song Division 

I think great leaders in 2023 will need to listen: They need to listen to their people and listen to their customers. Emails, texts and meetings on Zoom all have their places, but one-on-one conversation is where the truth of the matter is revealed, where nuances are clearer, where people are really heard. We can’t read minds (yet), so I believe the only way to solve problems for our teams and for our clients is to listen to them in direct conversation.

2. Tina Bonner, CEO and founder, Black in Meta; Caps Lock Agency; MYP Coaching

Peak Performance = Peak Impact
Just like the flight attendant says on the airplane, "Put your mask on first before helping someone else," more than ever, leaders must prioritize their mental and physical wellness so they can operate at peak performance. When leaders are healthy, from the inside out, they make better decisions, have more empathy and get more done.

3. Matthias Schultze, managing director, German Convention Bureau

Open Up
I am convinced that successful leadership of the future requires an open mind as well as open structures. For me, this also includes the concept of open innovation: sharing your ideas and thereby enhancing them, creating value and new business models.

4. Paul McVeigh, performance psychologist

What’s Stopping You?
Lots of people have put their lives on pause for the last couple of years and stopped themselves from living their best lives. I would encourage everyone to think about where they are going, what they truly want, and to realize that we really don’t have that many days to create this life, as you never know when the sands of time are going to run out.

5. Daniel Scheffler, travel writer

Don’t Believe Everything You Think
Scheffler, who’s written for the New York Times, Spin, Wonderlust, Vogue, the Smithsonian Magazine and many more travel titles, puts it bluntly: “Don’t believe everything you think” is a call to put our egos aside, to quiet the voice in our head that has 100 opinions — frequently all at once — and step away from analyzing and prejudging to embrace everything his newsletter "Without Maps" stands for: heart, not head; adventure, not fear.

6. Drew S. Holmgreen, chief brand officer, Meeting Professionals International

Be Empathetic
We’ve individually and collectively been put through the proverbial ringer the last two-plus years, putting us all in very different places mentally, physically and emotionally. By keeping those perspectives in mind, leading with patience and understanding, and committing ourselves to being empathetic, we will find positive ground necessary for everyone to prosper!

7. Tracy Stuckrath, founder of Thrive! Meetings & Events

Create Inclusive Experiences
When employees feel appreciated, respected and know that their needs are being met at work, they feel more compelled to participate fully and make a difference. Building truly inclusive workplaces encourages a whole new level of employee engagement.

8. Kai Kight, keynote speaker, artist, composer and entrepreneur

Understand Yourself
I think it's time we build workplaces, environments and places of gathering that are truly built for the humans inside of them. And we can't build a world for ourselves unless we first know ourselves.

9. Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group

Finally, my own views are that leaders should prioritize kindness, in all the forms it takes:
Kindness Is a Global Superpower
According to the United Nations, on Nov. 15, 2022, the earth’s population officially reached 8 billion. That’s a lot of humans sharing one home!

The past few years, and especially 2022, have been marked by political upheaval, war, economic pressures and, sadly, headlines that shout stories of systemic racism, bullying, harassment, fraud, lies and more. Those headlines seem to suggest we’re all doomed. But I don’t see it that way. Quite the opposite.

When the global meetings and events industry comes together I see — and feel — generosity, community, kindness, camaraderie, cooperation, and, importantly, an innate understanding that business works best when countries are at peace, not war.

21st-century science clearly shows that human health — emotional, physical, spiritual — depends on us feeling connected to each other. I believe we can start creating a better future right now by showing each other small kindnesses every day. If we all take responsibility for behaving with a little more kindness and compassion, imagine how much we could all achieve, together.

Carina Bauer is the CEO of the IMEX Group.