The 10 Minute Mentor

Leading in a Social Crisis: What Blood Diamonds Taught One Industry Leader

October 11, 2017

The 10 Minute Mentor Podcast
Our ongoing series on leadership in the age of disruption

Episode 8: Leading in a Social Crisis: What Blood Diamonds Taught One Industry Leader

Guest: Varda Shine, Executive Mentor, Merryck & Co UK (Former CEO, De Beers Diamond Trading Company)
HostDavid Reimer, CEO, Merryck & Co Americas


In Episode 8 of the 10 Minute Mentor Podcast series, former CEO of De Beers Diamond Trade Company, Varda Shine, sits down with host David Reimer to discuss leading the company through a time when social consciousness targeted the diamond industry. At the height of the Blood Diamond social crisis, Shine found herself at the forefront of a movement that would ultimately change the diamond industry forever.

Is disruption inevitable? What is a leader to do when social consciousness threatens their business? How can a leader remain agile in the face of disruption? What can a leader do when they are charged with reinventing the organization?

In reflecting on her experience leading the company and industry through significant transformation, Varda Shine argues that while any company may believe they are safe from disruption, this is often not the case, and organizations must proactively develop the muscle to work in this new age. Shine also cites the importance of brand messaging, communication, and the huge significance of understanding the evolving customer.

Key Takeaways:

04:45 I think quite a leadership act that De Beers took, but to be honest, with such a big market share, it was very important for De Beers to make sure the industry is in the right space.

07:48 Suddenly being in a world where it can turn in a minute into uncertainty and vagueness, and, it was just, how do we make sure that we keep on assessing where we are and how do we then respond? And how do I make sure that I remain updated? In my time as CEO, I had the blood diamonds and all of that, I had, 2008 with the question whether the world is going to fall to pieces and if in that case, would people continue buying diamonds?

08:35 When you are in an environment where you get balls thrown at you, right, left and center, you need to make sure that A, you have the right people with the right skills, and B, you involve them. You can’t pretend that everything is okay, so you have to involve them…. because there might be people out there that knew very well and that could come up with a better idea than you.

11:30: You really need to be able to reinvent your business. If you’re getting too comfortable in your seat, and if you just think that things will continue as they are now and no matter what happens you’re robust enough, you’re bound to be surprised. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity are here to stay…Make sure that you’re developing the muscle to work in this kind of world.

Click here to download the full transcript

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