Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 show how to lead in a crisis

Excerpted from Financial Post: 

When the world stopped in March to try to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection process for Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 was well under way. Nominations and submissions were in and due diligence had just started. The question quickly turned to whether it was relevant or even appropriate to be working on an awards program celebrating leadership. Just as quickly, it became clear the answer was yes. Leadership is more important than ever when you’re facing a crisis.

“We saw superlative responses to the pandemic, both in terms of taking care of their employees and pivoting their organizations and contributing to their communities,” says Jeff Freeborough, managing partner, Toronto, Caldwell Partners, creator of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. “This year’s honourees are leaders not just in their organizations but in their communities. One of the key elements of the award is social responsibility, and this year’s honourees really stepped up.”

Since its inception in 1995, Top 40 has recognized more than 800  outstanding Canadians who have gone on to establish themselves as difference-makers, creative thinkers and performance drivers both here in Canada and globally. A few general themes have emerged since the relaunch of Top 40 four years ago, chief among them the growing diversity of nominees and honourees. They come from across the country, from across industries and sectors and from varied cultural backgrounds. There has been a steady climb of people of colour among nominees and honourees.  “While there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to diversity, we are starting to see more representation at senior levels and this is filtering through to Canada’s Top 40 Under 40,” says Freeborough.

This year’s honourees were selected from a field of 1,000 nominations that resulted in 350 written submissions that led to about 100 individuals being chosen for an interview. Caldwell and MNP conducted the interviews virtually and then created a shortlist of   candidates for the independent advisory board to consider. The selection meeting, which is typically held in person in May, was conducted over Zoom on Sept. 15, 2020. Some 35 people, including the advisory board comprising industry and professional leaders from across Canada, which includes past Top 40 recipients, took part.

Representatives from Caldwell Partners were on hand to answer questions and board members used the Slido polling app to cast their votes.

Each honouree was selected based on their achievements in each of four selection criteria:

  • Vision and innovation
  • Leadership
  • Impact and influence
  • Social responsibility

“This year it felt more important than ever to celebrate our young leaders and their successes,” says Freeborough.

“These are folks doing remarkable things. They are taking risks. They see things differently.  They create opportunities for themselves, for their people, their organizations. They are role models. In this uncertain time, seeing these leaders step up and support and create opportunities is vital both to the economy and

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