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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Four overlooked leadership skills to navigate confidently the energy transition


6 min read

Head and shoulders photo of Dr Yanos Michopoulos FEI FIoL set against very dark blue/black speckled backdrop Photo: Y Michopoulos
Dr Yanos Michopoulos FEI FIoL

Some say great leaders are born, not made. Not according to Energy Institute tutor Dr Yanos Michopoulos FEI, who believes that the art and science of leadership for future energy systems can be cultivated. Dr Michopoulos explains that beyond technical, planning and operating skills developed at the beginning of a professional career, energy industry leaders need soft skills to drive change, overcome challenges and explore opportunities. A new 10-day ‘Executive Leadership in Energy Programme’ by the Energy Institute aims to equip the next generation of energy leaders with these skills and more.

Soft leadership skills are in demand as the energy sector rapidly moves towards global net zero. The energy systems of 2030 and 2050 will look very different from today. As such, future energy professionals must be adaptable and innovative.


Let’s look at some overlooked leadership concepts and skills in detail:

1: Emotional intelligence (EQ)
Daniel Goleman defined EQ as ‘the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions in ourselves and our relationships’. Senior leaders often have high EQ rather than high IQ. Examples of EQ skills include:

  • Communication – understanding how tone differs across channels and audiences; recall, communication is not what we say, but what others hear.
  • Mindfulness – being present, actively noticing new things without judging, allowing for sensitivity to context and perspective.
  • Resilience – the ability to survive and adapt to unpredictable, changing and potentially unfavourable events.


2: Interpersonal skills
A key challenge for energy leaders navigating the energy transition is their ability to take people along and inspire others. They need to define a clear purpose (the ‘why’) and build a shared vision and purpose for the future. These ‘values’ reflect organisational culture, or ‘the way we do business around here’.


Energy leaders must understand what motivates their internal ‘followers’ and diverse external stakeholders (including regulators, customers, suppliers, partners and wider society).


Understanding these motivations will help them develop collaborative engagement strategies for sustainable business outcomes. This ongoing process touches on other important leadership areas such as talent development, mentoring, coaching and creating an environment of psychological safety.


3: Bias-free decision-making skills
Decision-making is a key leadership characteristic, especially with incomplete data or during crises. However, Daniel Kahneman’s work, described in Thinking, Fast and Slow, outlines the different biases to be aware of in decision-making, such as:

  • Anchoring bias – clinging to the first data point mentioned.
  • Confirmation bias – focusing on information that supports our views, not data that challenges.
  • Over-confidence bias – overestimating our own powers, abilities and predictions.


To overcome these biases, leaders need to challenge and support each other, embrace diversity and inclusion, and develop strong influencing skills to handle conflicts and disagreements.


4: Modern communication skills 
Internal organisational transformations and international company expansions have seen the rise of remote, virtual and hybrid teams – a trend further accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. Technological advances provide us with tools, but leading these teams is more demanding than traditional models. It requires new routines, advanced communication skills and fostering a culture of energy innovation. Adopting these practices will increase empathy and allow individuals to develop unique leadership styles to handle various situations.


Accelerating the development of these skills
To assist the development of these leadership skills, chartered professional body the Energy Institute has teamed up with Hult/EF Corporate Education, a joint venture between Hult International Business School and Education First. They are delivering a split 10-day immersive leadership training course, ‘Executive Leadership in Energy Programme’, in both London and Dubai, which I am facilitating.


The programme is bringing together a cohort of 16 high-potential energy leaders and is offering them a suite of development methods, industry guest speakers, real-life practical examples and project work. Leaders will accelerate their development of the aforementioned skills and gain a comprehensive set of tools on how to be an effective leader of the energy transition, make better decisions and motivate organisations across functions, regions and cultures.


The Executive Leadership in Energy programme targets energy professionals with 10–15 years of experience and aiming to take on greater leadership roles in their companies, for example in leading large and diverse teams or driving international expansion. Employees in smaller energy companies and start-ups would also benefit from the availability of a comprehensive leadership development programme, so often only the privilege of large corporates.


Dr Yanos Michopoulos FEI FIoL has 30+ years of senior experience in sectors including energy, infrastructure, transportation and private equity across the EMEA region.


  • Further reading: ‘Inspiring the next generation of energy workers’. Harnessing talent and ingenuity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) has made our modern world happier, healthier, safer and more secure. Now, meeting our net zero ambitions presents a fresh set of challenges.
  • Find out why attracting women into STEM will help create a diverse and sustainable future for the energy sector.