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The Transformative Power of Leadership (and Clean Toilets)

Dialogues - Transformative Leadership (featured)

How does one live a useful life? On 11 October 2023, The HEAD Foundation Dialogues featured Dr Jack Sim, known worldwide as “Mr Toilet” because of his advocacy. Jack founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001, and to date has helped 2.4 billion people gain access to proper sanitation. His inspiring talk highlighted the skills and dispositions required to not only thrive but do meaningful work in the 21st century, with reference to his own success story at the WTO.

Jack opened his talk on the value of educating future generations with soft skills. In a world where artificial intelligence is developing exponentially, success in the future depends on what he terms “being a good human being”, rather than trying to compete with the speed and intelligence of robots.

As an example, Jack pointed to the success of his global sanitation campaign. Sanitation, he said, is not an “elegant” issue for media and organisations to work on, leading to lower coverage and awareness. He brought this healthcare issue to the forefront of global discussions through using persuasive story-telling and forging strong international partnerships. His strategy of speaking to the pain points of various stakeholders created excitement for investing in clean sanitation, leading to governments prioritising it as a national development agenda.

To date, the WTO has helmed 19 World Toilet Summits, reached an audience of 3 billion people a year, and enabled 2.4 billion people to gain access to proper sanitation and toilet facilities. Jack highlighted his ongoing work with economies like China and Brazil as successful stories of sanitation models that incorporated both infrastructure upgrades and cultural shifts to sustain change at scale.

Closing his talk, Jack shed light on his personal principles that made the global sanitation movement a success. He believes in living a useful life, and takes pride in knowing his work has helped others rather than measuring success by how much he has personally gained. While pursuing constant improvements in global sanitation, gave a reminder that success means embracing failure and having an iterative mindset. As an active story-teller and social entrepreneur, Jack embodies the “7C” values he thinks everyone can have to thrive in the 21st century: curiosity, courage, compassion, commitment, community, collaboration, and communication.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the speakers in this webinar are their own and do not represent the opinions of The HEAD Foundation.

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