The nomadic CEO

Mimi Nicklin reflects on being a nomadic leader and offers advice to those who want to adopt a new way of working

In the corporate world today, there is an assumption that you can either be ‘in corporate’ or that you can choose to take on the remote, nomadic approach to your career. Nomad professionals have the incorrect reputation of only being social media influencers, IT specialists, journalists, or content creators. They are perceived to be young, single, backpacking types. However, there is no reason not be able to run and lead global, professionally established, corporations from around the world as stable, corporate, members of the societies in which they operate. 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, and if you are able to make this commitment to flexibly lead a team with empathy, consistency, and connection, then there is nothing standing in your way to taking your C-suite vision on the road.

With a business headquartered in Dubai, but working globally, I am a CEO with a team of 25 in almost as many countries. I run my businesses remotely and globally as the CEO and as a single mother. I am adding to my business growth (and my daughters!) by building connections and my understanding of people, trends, and consumerism as we go. 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, while never quite straight forward, is possible and beneficial to business and personal growth. 

Professional nomadic life, while never quite straight forward, it is possible and beneficial to business and personal growth

Making it matter

So, is this way of remote or hybrid working sustainable? As far as I am concerned it is. We are proving it in our business, and I am not giving up any time soon. Sometimes I do fly in for meetings – but it does mean that I am not going to change my personal choices to prioritise board rooms over Zoom rooms. I am the best version of myself when I am surrounded by a day-to-day life that fuels my energy, passion, and inspiration. I am at my most strategic, creative, and connected in the cities I choose, and this benefits my clients and my team equally. This is the same for every member of my team. After all, we are all humans first and foremost, and humans do their best work when they are at their best.

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 here. Nomadic working can’t be ‘just because’ – it needs to be a defined, strategic, and effective solution that optimally adds to the organisation.

Today every business has their own percentage of ‘in’ versus ‘out’ of the office for optimal working, and it is within our hands, as leaders, to make this knowledge sharing economy viable in the long-term and provide opportunities far beyond our geographical boundaries. After all, what is diversity and inclusion truly if not the ability to include and provide opportunities for different talent, skills, and outlooks from around our increasingly connected world?

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. 

With that in mind, here are three top tips to making nomad leadership work – for you and your teams.

1. Be flexible
If you choose to lead from another time zone from most of your clients or team members, you need to be prepared for your working hours to change. It may mean you’re starting early or finishing late but being flexible with your time will help to keep everything running smoothly. 
2. Arrange informal catch ups
Wherever you are, it’s important that you make time to connect with people, as people. It’s 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. That way you really get to know your people, and they get to know you.
3. Overcommunicate
The secret to relocation on a regular basis is to ensure your leadership team knows where you are heading, and how and when they can access you. Keeping them informed with where you’re going to be based and what the time zone is, ensures all communications are as easy as possible. Remember, the world is small but big gaps can form if you don’t plan well.

Mimi Nicklin is the creative CEO and founder of inclusive creative agency Freedm, a leading empathy expert, and author of Softening The Edge. For more information click here

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