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SLID’s Women Directors’ Forum convenes panel discussion on Empathetic Leadership in a Time of Crisis



From L to R: Ms. Lakmini Wijesundera-Co Founder, IronOne Technologies/BoardPac, Ms. Kasthuri Chellaraja Wilson- Group CEO, Hemas Holdings PLC, Dilshan Rodrigo-Director/COO, Hatton National Bank PLC, Ms. Hajar Alafifi- Chairperson, Unilever Sri Lanka, Ms. Chamila Bandara-Director/CEO, Mountain Hawk Express (Pvt) Ltd and Ms. Shiromal Cooray-Managing Director, Jetwing Travels (Pvt) Ltd

The Women Directors’ Forum (WDF) of The Sri Lanka Institute of Directors organized a panel discussion titled “Empathetic Leadership in a Time of Crisis” on 19 November 2021 at the Cinnamon Grand Colombo to discuss and share insights with its members on the virtues of and the need for empathy in leading organizations in times of crises such as the current pandemic. The keynote was delivered by Ms. Hajar Alafifi-Chairperson, Unilever Sri Lanka. Moderated by Dilshan Rodrigo-Director/COO, Hatton National Bank PLC, the panel consisted of Ms. Shiromal Cooray-Managing Director, Jetwing Travels (Pvt) Ltd, Ms. Kasthuri Chellaraja Wilson-Group CEO, Hemas Holdings PLC, Ms. Lakmini Wijesundera-Co Founder, IronOne Technologies/BoardPac and Ms. Chamila Bandara-Director/CEO, Mountain Hawk Express (Pvt) Ltd as well as Ms. Alafifi.

“Empathy goes beyond compassion. Leaders were super-heroes, commanding and controlling with top-down leadership styles until maybe 10 years ago. With the advent of Covid, leaders realized that they now had to pull a different muscle to lead the team and drive business performance. They needed to make their people feel safe and cared for. This required them to exude a completely different leadership style. They had to become human leaders. Empathetic leadership is about doing hard things in a human way. It is not about becoming fluffy or being kind for the sake of being kind. It is about driving performance whilst being human” said Ms. Hajar Alafifi in her keynote address and explained that empathy builds productivity contrary to the belief that empathy is counter productive to business results and performance. She also emphasized that an empathetic leader drives business results by supporting and challenging the team at the same time.

Dilshan Rodrigo citing research conducted said that while 80% of leaders consider themselves empathetic leaders, the staff ratings of these leaders indicate that only 20% of them are actually seen to be empathetic leaders. He also said that during the difficult period due to Covid, he has seen companies operating in good industries not doing well and companies operating in difficult industries doing well due to good leadership, emphasizing that ultimately it is leadership that matters in achieving business performance.

Responding to a question from the moderator on empathetic leadership and how it manifests itself for each of the panelists, Ms. Lakmini Wijesundera said that as a growing company the expectation from the leadership is different to the well-established, well-structured companies. “In our situation, communication with the staff is very important with understanding and empathy towards the team.”

Ms. Kasthuri Chellaraja Wilson sharing her thoughts said that there is a fine line between understanding and sympathy, and that there are things that leaders can understand, acknowledge, and accommodate. Listening and having deeper conversations with the team had helped her to understand her individual team members better.

Ms. Shiromal Cooray emphasized that empathy needs to come from leaders and that it is their duty to instill an empathetic culture in the company. She said that merely having an empathetic leader may not be sufficient and that empathy must be cascaded down the company’s hierarchical lines through many interventions.

Ms. Chamila Bandara mentioned that empathy is a core value in her company and one of 10 leadership attributes. She said that when Covid came about, their leadership team was really put to the test as theirs was an essential service which put the staff at risk given that they had to make deliveries even during the pandemic. She emphasized that empathetic leadership is not only thinking of your employees and putting them first but also about making intelligent and commercially viable decisions. “During a crisis, one needs to be confident of one’s ability as a leader” she added.

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‘Govt. lacks mechanism to recover USD 40 billion spirited out of SL from 2008 to 2018’




By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The government doesn’t have any mechanism to recover the USD 40 billion that was siphoned out of the country illegally from 2008 to 2018 by Sri Lanka’s business elites, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Peradeniya Dr. Kalpa Rajapaksha said.

“Most people think that the IMF loan is a victory for Sri Lanka without knowing its risk factors. These are exceptionally high because one of the main impacts would be for the banking sector whose liquidity is due to weaken on account of high tax impositions and certain economic reforms, Dr. Rajapaksha told The Island Financial Review.

Dr. Rajapaksha added: ‘The tax relief given during President Gotabaya Rajapaksha’s tenure triggered this issue, which cost government coffers more than Rs 450 billion. However, Sri Lanka has to carefully follow IMF recommendations taking its history into consideration. It is said that Greece and Ethiopia and several other countries absolutely failed by following IMF recommendations in the past.

‘We are in the dark as to the method of economic recovery because the government is attending to deeper, burning issues in the country, such as reduction of poverty and ending economic inequities.

‘The imposition of heavy taxes on people, especially professionals, via a wealth tax and a heritage tax by 2025 and the increasing of direct taxes, such as VAT, on low income classes, without taking into account the need for a wage hike, will iraise the poverty level and widen wealth inequalities.

‘Inflation at the global level is very high and strategies are required to increase exports and cut down the heavy import dependency of the economy. This is a prerequisite to address all economic woes.

‘The previous ruling party squandered and stole billions of dollars but the present government not having any plan to recover that money is a tragedy. Therefore, promoting neo- liberal principles is impossible under the current corruption scenario.

‘Further, the IMF has set the target of reducing the debt to GDP ratio to 0.7 per cent in 2023, along with their recommendations. Many people doubt the achievability of these aims.’

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Global banking sector instabilities affect local bourse



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE trading got off to a positive start but later turned negative yesterday due to huge selling pressure. The reasons being investor worries over a domestic debt restructuring mechanism after having secured the IMF loan and the negative global scenario when it comes to the banking sector, market analysts said.

According to analysts, during the last week strategically important banks in the global economic system went through credit default swaps, especially Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and Credit Suisse Group AG. But another leading European Corporate Bank possibly facing a credit default swap, created some ripple effects for economies like Sri Lanka, analysts said.

The All- Share Price Index went down by 134.1 points and S and P SL20 declined by 51.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 871 million with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in NDB, which crossed 1.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 51.6 million; its shares traded at Rs 43 and Aitken Spence 772,000 shares crossed for Rs 47.1 million, its shares traded at Rs 61.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, SLT Rs 82 million (717,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 52.8 million (8.2 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 50.1 million (298,000 shares traded), Tokyo Cement (Non- Voting) Rs 36.5 million (388,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 33.6 million (251,000 shares traded), ALC Cables Rs 33.3 million (406,000 shares traded) and Sunshine Holdings Rs 27.2 million (633,000 shares traded). During the day 45.4 million share volumes changed hands in 15000 transactions.

The market is generating revenue from SLT over news of it being divested; moreover, there has been interest for the hotel and tourism indexes, since tourist arrivals and earnings have been attractive, an analyst said.

It is said that Treasury bond yields opened steady on Monday, while the rupee opened weaker at spot market, dealers said.

A 01.07.2025 bond was quoted at 30.75/31.00 per cent on Monday, up from 30.90/31.20 per cent on Friday. A 15.09.2027 bond was quoted at 28.00/70 per cent, up from 28.00/50 per cent from Friday. The Sri Lanka rupee opened at 322/325 against the US dollar, weaker from 320/325 a day earlier.

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Holding ‘Raid Amazones’ for second consecutive year in SL, a rare honour for her – Head of Marketing Srilankan Airlines



Flying start to ‘Raid Amazones'

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

More than 250 female French athletes arrived in Sri Lanka for the challenging ‘Raid Amazones’ adventure event that took place last week in Kandy. They arrived in Sri Lanka for the second consecutive year, which was a big achievement for the country when it comes to the tourism sector, Head of Marketing SriLankan Airlines Saminda Perera said.

“For the first time in ‘Raid Amazones’ history they selected one country for two consecutive years, which could be considered a great honour for Sri Lanka. This would enable more French tourists to arrive in Sri Lanka in the future, Perera told the media recently during the event in Kandy. ‘Raid Amazones’ will hit the streets of the fabled hill capital, Kandy, with the participation of over 250 female athletes.

‘Raid Amazones’ is a well-known annual destination adventure event originating in France, which features female athletes competing their way through a range of challenges, such as, orienteering, mountain biking, canoeing, riding, running and archery.

“Sri Lanka was chosen over rival destinations by the event’s founders due to the unparalleled warmth of its people and support on the ground to pull off a successful event. Their decision is also due to SriLankan Airlines’ tireless marketing efforts to secure the popular trail on successive occasions for Sri Lanka in its hour of need for international tourism support, Perera said.

Saminda Perera

Tourism sources added: “During the 21st edition of the trail, the participants will be able to connect with a potpourri of natural and historical highlights as they trek through the Kandyan plateau in Central Sri Lanka.

“Their journey, though, would begin from the moment that they step onboard SriLankan Airlines to fly from Paris to Colombo, on an aircraft dedicated to ‘Raid Amazones 2023’.

“Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kandy, the iconic setting of ‘Raid Amazones 2023’, is renowned for two of the most recognizable cultural symbols that define Sri Lanka.

“SriLankan Airlines partnered Raid Amazones in 2022 soon after recommencing operations to Paris.

“SriLankan Airlines, together with Connaissance de Ceylan, the official ground- handling partner of the event, will go all out to ensure that the French group experiences the best in Sri Lankan hospitality.

“This event will especially help create more awareness of Sri Lanka as an adventure travel hotspot among French travellers and the rest of Europe, where ‘Raid Amazones’ is sought-after and attracts adventure-seekers.”

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