Mimi Nicklin is a nomadic leader. While she operates as the CEO of branding and storytelling agency, FREEDM, she’s also founded organisational empathy training platform, Empathy Everywhere, and written a bestselling book, Softening the Edge. All without a permanent hub. In this exclusive guest article, Mimi discusses how being a nomadic leader isn’t just possible, it’s fantastic.
Nomadic living is often mistaken as being reserved for young, single, backpacking types who have careers as social media influencers, IT specialists, journalists, or content creators. But there is no reason not to be able to run and lead a global, professionally established, corporation from around the world as a stable, corporate, active member of the societies you enter.
Is Nomadic Corporate Leadership a Reality?
The knowledge economy has proven to be strong and varied enough to sustain opinions, creativity and talent working together collaboratively across borders and time zones. If you are able to make a commitment to flexibility and lead a team with empathy, consistency, and connection, there is nothing standing in your way to taking your C-suite vision on the road.
There is an assumption that we cannot make a corporate career work in a nomadic lifestyle. But I decided two years ago to break that assumption and have since seen first-hand that both are compatible if you put the people and dedication in place to make it work. With a business headquartered in Dubai, but working globally, I am the CEO of a branding and storytelling agency, www.findfreedm.com, as well as the Founder of one of the world’s first organisational empathy training platforms, www.EmpathyEverywhere.co.
With a team of 25 in almost as many countries, I run both these businesses remotely as the CEO and as a single mother. I find extraordinary talent, meet a multitude of inspiring minds, gain access to phenomenal ideas and innovation, and never get stuck in a local rut by staying put for too long. Professional nomadic life, whilst never quite as straight forward as my social media portrays, is indeed possible, and it is deeply beneficial to business and personal growth
Within nomadically led teams, we can bring expertise, creativity, and content to markets that previously had no access to this level or form of thinking, and the impact of this can be astounding. It is, however, critical that the leaders of these business can overtly explain the benefits, ways of working and output of these new models. Leadership purpose and culture become critical. Nomadic working can’t be ‘just because’ – it needs to be a defined, strategic and effective solution that optimally adds to the clients’ businesses you lead.
Remote working creates the freedom and flexibility that employees have been screaming for, for decades. We had never managed to crack ‘work life balance’ until the pandemic so shockingly threw us into the future. Today, whilst every business has their own percentage of ‘in’ versus ‘out’ of the office for optimal working, it is within our hands, as leaders, to make this knowledge sharing economy viable long term and provide opportunities far beyond our geographical boundaries. After all, what is diversity and inclusion if not the ability to include and provide opportunities for different talent, skills, and outlooks from around our increasingly small world?
Remote working creates the freedom and flexibility that employees have been screaming for, for decades. We had never managed to crack ‘work life balance’ until the pandemic so shockingly threw us into the future.
CEO at FREEDM & Founder of Empathy Everywhere
The Proof and Practice
After three years of evidence, we have proven worldwide that in most cases, business can be run extremely well remotely. But this does depend entirely on the leadership team’s ability to drive culture, consistency, motivation and delivery across geographies, team members and need states.
Here are my three top tips to making Nomad CEO leadership work:
1. Flexibility is key
If you choose to lead from another time zone from most of your clients or team members, you need to be prepared to work an unusual set of hours to suit a global time zone.
2. Organise coffee dates
The key to all leadership is relationships and culture building. It is critical that wherever you are, you make time to connect with people, as people. It is easy to slip into only attending meetings with formal agendas and output goals, but the key to staying connected as a Nomad CEO is to make time for informal, empathy driven conversation. You need to know your people and they need to know you!
Your team members need to know where you will be and in what time zone so that they can seamlessly work with you without the anxiety of interrupting or getting the time slot wrong. The key to moving a lot is to ensure the rest of your leadership teams know where you are moving to and how and when they can access you.
ABOUT OUR GUEST WRITER
CEO at FREEDM & Founder of Empathy Everywhere
A nomadic CEO and empathetic leadership expert, Mimi splits her time between hosting the Empathy for Breakfast podcast, being the bestselling author of Soften the Edge, being the Creative CEO at FREEDM, and being the founder of EmpathyEverywhere.co.
A former Global Vice President, GlaxoSmithKline, for Grey Group in Singapore and having held roles as Regional Strategic Director and Chief Marketing Officer, her key strengths are in building team culture and cohesion, creative storytelling and strategic concept, insight, and brand development.