Lessons on transformative leadership from Venture Frontier Lanka


Following startup boot camp programmes and Demo day pitches by Venture Frontier Lanka, we found ourselves at Jetwing Colombo 07 on the 08th of May 2018. We were not alone though. Packed inside the hall were CEOs from a multitude of companies. Why were they here, you ask? Well, we were about to find the answer to that question.

Following a hearty breakfast, everyone took their respective seats and we were ready to kick things off. Jim Bagnola, President of the Leadership Group International started his keynote speech with an interesting video to wake everyone up. The video was about how a new generation of thinking is leading up to how we do work in our organizations. Once the video finished, Jim asked the participants to turn to the person next to them and share what they found from the video that they just saw.

Jim Bagnola speaking at the Venture Frontier Lanka Breakfast Forum
Jim Bagnola speaking at the Venture Frontier Lanka Breakfast Forum

Jim explained that in order to become a global country, the future skills of a leader are required now. Some people believe that there is a natural born leader. If that were the case, then these people would have to be born with a follower. This scenario would only apply to twins, triplets or more.

We should think and speak globally, Jim emphasized. In order to do this, we need to get better at the English language because the British made it the language of the world. Without English, we would not be able to carry out any business transactions.

Are millennials taking over?

A rising trend is that the Millennials are taking over. Almost 40% of a workplace is comprised of millennials. According to Jim, within the next 4-5 years, that percentage would increase to around 80% of the workforce. This means that Millennials have to be accounted for and not just ignored. Around 70% of millennials want to be entrepreneurs, rather than work for someone.

While being an entrepreneur is good, Jim also explained that we also need intrapreneurs as well. We need to have an environment where millennials can act like entrepreneurs. If they feel tied down, they would just hop from job to job. In order to cater to these trends, we must also understand how the environment operates.

To teach, is also to learn

We also have to increase our learning agility and ability. If you are to teach, you also have to be able to learn. For example, millennials want a teacher for a supervisor or a CEO. They want someone who can teach them and not just give them orders.

In addition, millennials are impatient. This is because the previous generation made them that way. Millennials are addicted. Whether it’s to see how many likes they got on their Facebook post or Instagram photo, Millennials are addicted to instant gratification Jim called it the dopamine loop.

Venture Frontier Lanka Boot Camp Day 2
The millennials will account for 80% of the workforce

In order to improve the performance of your organization, you should also create leaders at every level of your organization. If there’s someone who knows something you don’t know, let them take the lead. This leadership is where you get people to follow you because they see that you know what you’re doing and they follow you. Millennials want to know how to course correct. If you do not know how to do that, then it’s a mistake.

Success is a team sport

Jim emphasized that you should increase your personal energy level and the level of energy of your team as well. Good leadership is the management of energy of your team. Whatever your thoughts, if you create things, you’re in charge. This creation means you gain energy.

On the other hand, based on questions and the tone of how you ask them, you can also de-energize them. From there, a person can go into fight or flight. Further, Jim also explained that you have to figure out what individuals belong and do not belong in your organization.

Your organization needs leaders who a tech savvy
Your organization needs leaders who a tech-savvy (Image credits: London School of Business & Finance)

If you are to be successful in your organization, you must also become technologically savvy. You must also improve your skills with regard to social media. Further, it is also important to practice building partnerships. Remember, success is a team sport. If you want to build a successful team, you as a leader much learn about other cultures and respect diversity. Jim also went on to explain that this relates to gender bias as well. He emphasized that we should support women in higher positions in the organization.

In short, Jim’s words of advice was to support the creation of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs by investing money, time and expertise in the youth of your company. Remember, courage builds confidence.

In conclusion, Jim’s last words were that your organization and country will never be what you and your people are not, rather, it will be what you and your people are.

The Panel Discussions

Following this was a Panel discussion. The discussion covered topics such as a bank and financial institutions helping out startups from a financial point of view. Heminda Jayaweera, Co-Founder of Venture Frontier Lanka also spoke at the discussion about an Incubator he is involved in. This is none other than Mora ventures. Heminda went on to explain that Mora Ventures already has around 150 entrepreneurs.

Venture Frontier Lanka | Breakfast Forum
The panelists at the Venture Frontier Lanka Breakfast Forum

Of this, around 25 already have customers. The important note is that all these startups are run by entrepreneurs who are still at a University level. With a final group photograph of all the people attending the Venture Frontier Lanka Breakfast Forum, the event drew to a close.


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