2021 has been a year that many people would rather forget than remember, but for others it was the year that was
Many of us went into 2021 full of hope and ambition. Coming off the back of 2020 – the year when COVID was born – there was hope that a global vaccine rollout would allow people to get on with their lives and do the things we love.
But, as the world learnt about the different strains of COVID-19, and we began to see how rapidly a single variant such as Delta spread like wildfire, it became evident to us that 2021 was pretty much 2020, part two.
Besides the fact that the pandemic was dominating the headlines around the world, there were plenty of other big events that will be remembered.
January 6 Capitol Riots
On January 6, 2021, as Congress convened to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory, hundreds of protesters who were in Washington DC for the “Save America” rally violently breached the U.S. Capitol building – storming it in protest.
Rioters made it as far as the Senate Chamber, killing one Capitol police officer, and injuring more than 140 others.
The insurrectionists, comprised largely of pro-Trump supporters, caused roughly $1.5 million in damages, according to The Washington Post.
At the time, then-President Donald Trump took to social media to claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him, after losing to Joe Biden.
Rather than encouraging a peaceful transfer of power—a fundamental tenet of American democracy – President Donald Trump stoked the flames of insurrection with rhetoric about the election being fraudulent, stolen, and called on supporters to take action.
Those actions quickly saw Trump blocked off social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, which many say he used as a platform to ‘incite the January 6 violence.’
Since the riot, ongoing investigations remain, as well as a Congressional Committee Hearing, which heard evidence provided by close allies of former President Donald Trump.
On January 13, with one week remaining in his term, Trump was impeached— for an unprecedented second time—for “incitement of insurrection.”
More than 700 people involved in the riots have been charged with various crimes so far.
President Joe Biden’s Inauguration
The inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20 marked a transition of power, following the 2020 U.S. election.
The transition of power changed the political rhetoric from “America First” to “America is Back.”
Former US President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s victory of 306 electoral votes. That’s when his supporters – with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud – used as a rallying cry for the Capitol insurrection one week prior.
Vice President Kamala Harris makes history
Biden’s inauguration was historic, not only because a transition of power was achieved despite efforts to subvert this democratic norm, but also because Kamala Harris became the first woman and first person of African-American and South Asian descent to serve in the role of vice-president of the United States.
Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar since the military seized control on 1 February.
Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy party had been among those detained.
Hundreds of people, including children, have since been killed as violent protest against the military junta poured onto the streets.
The military is now back in charge and has declared a year-long state of emergency.
It seized control on 1 February following a general election which Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by a landslide.
The armed forces had backed the opposition, who were demanding a rerun of the vote, claiming widespread fraud.
The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.
The coup took place as a new session of Parliament was set to open.
Supply chains halt as the EverGiven ship gets stuck
In March, a massive cargo ship carrying more than 18,000 containers of consumer goods, got suck in the Suez Canal after over-turning.
For a long six days, the EverGiven ship blocked the passage of more than 400 other ships, stalling an already-tenuous global supply chain.
Analysts have estimated that the ripple effect was 60-day shipping delays for roughly $60 billion worth of products.
Many experts say that the costly error shone a light on the outdated infrastructure of freight shipping.
A short time after the ship was freed, it was seized by the Suez Canal Authority and held for more than 100 days as compensation negotiations ensued.
The sum demanded by the Canal Authority was initially $900 million, but that total figure was later lowered to $550 million.
EverGiven’s owners as well as its insurers, and Egyptian authorities reached a settlement on July 7, the terms of which were not disclosed.
COVID vaccines rollout across the world
By May 1st – a year-and-a-half into the COVID pandemic – much of the world was beginning to receive shipments of the COVID vaccine by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Nations like the United States, Israel, UK and much of Europe began administering jabs, as the rollout quickly began the ticket back to normality.
The technology behind the vaccine was highly praised. Both Pfizer and Moderna use a novel mRNA technology to create their vaccines, while AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses more traditional, pre-existing information-delivery technology.
It was a milestone in the pandemic that many met with hope, relief, and, for some, hesitancy.
With the introduction of the COVID jabs, reported cases slowly began to decline as well as the hospitalisation and death rate across many parts of the world.
The billionaire space race
Who could forget the billionaire space race – an event which made history and looked to the future of space travel.
Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson all jockeyed for headlines relating to private space travel and astro tourism this year.
On July 11, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson became the first civilian aboard his own rocket ship to reach space.
Mr Branson reached an altitude of 53 miles above ground.
Who could forget the biggest sporting event of the year.
After being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics finally went ahead in Japan in July through to August.
It was a revolution in the way people consumed the Games – with more viewers streaming the event than ever before – some even reporting more eyes on mobile than TV free-to-air screens.
Spectators weren’t allowed to attend the Games in-person due to COVID.
Lamont Marcell Jacobs took out the blue- ribbon event, the 100m Mens Final as well as the high jump having two gold medallists.
It was the first joint-Olympic podium in Athletics since 1912.
US withdraws from Afghanistan
On August 31 – US President Joe Biden, along with his administration withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan, following on with a deal reached by the Trump Administration to end the 20-year war.
The decision copped mixed emotions. Reports state that while the majority of Americans agree that withdrawal from the country was the right decision, 40% of people believe it was handled poorly.
The withdrawal of the US military saw the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan in just under 10 days – even before American troops had completed their evacuation.
The militant group seized control of Kabul on August 15.
In a White House Statement, President Joe Biden adamantly defended the decision and the withdrawal operation.
Violent protests erupt in world’s most locked down city
In September, Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne turned into a city of protest.
Police and demonstrators clashed following an announcement by the Victorian state government that construction workers will be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine in order to continue working.
A protest outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters in Melbourne turned violent.
Protesters smashed glass windows, threw projectiles and caused damage to the building, prompting the deployment of riot police.
In particular, the Victorian headquarters of Australia’s major construction union, the CFMEU was vandalised.
The protests went on over multiple days, and saw thousands of police deployed to the city – including officers from the riot squad.
Tennis tournaments in China scrapped amid concern for Peng Shuai
In November, the Women’s Tennis Association announced that it will immediately suspend all tennis tournaments in China as concerns grew for the safety and wellbeing of Peng Shuai.
The tennis star went missing after posting a sexual assault allegation against a top Chinese government official.
Ghislaine Maxwell trial
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell began her trial after being arrested in 2019 in relation to sexual abuse allegations involving herself and Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell, 59, is accused of recruiting and grooming four teenage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004. She has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking and other crimes.
The federal court jury in Manhattan began deliberations late on Monday December 20 after three weeks of emotional testimony from four accusers.
Maxwell’s lawyers have argued that she is being “scapegoated” for Epstein’s crimes because the globetrotting investor – Maxwell’s former boyfriend and employer – took his own life in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 at the age of 66 while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.
Who is PewDiePie and what’s his net worth?
Felix Kjellberg, popularly known as PewDiePie, is a Swedish YouTube sensation who has risen to fame as one of the most prominent content creators on the platform.
With millions of dedicated fans worldwide, he has become a household name.
PewDiePie’s journey to stardom began in 2010 when he started creating videos centered around gaming, commentary, and humor. His charismatic and relatable persona resonated with viewers, propelling him to unparalleled success. Over the years, he diversified his content to include vlogs, reviews, and a wide range of entertainment.
One of the defining moments of PewDiePie’s career was his “T-Series vs. PewDiePie” battle in 2019, where he competed with the Indian music label T-Series for the title of the most subscribed YouTube channel. This event garnered immense attention and support from his fans, further solidifying his status as an internet icon.
Now, as of 2021, PewDiePie’s net worth stands at a staggering $40 million, thanks to various revenue streams such as ad revenue, merchandise sales, and sponsorships. He’s not only a YouTube star but also a successful entrepreneur, with his own line of merchandise and a book.
PewDiePie’s journey is a testament to the power of online content creation and the immense influence YouTubers can have on global audiences. As he continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of online media, one thing remains clear – PewDiePie is here to stay.
Elon Musk raves about “next-level” Tesla Cybertruck performance
Elon Musk expressed his excitement about the upcoming Tesla Cybertruck Performance version, declaring it to be a game-changer in the electric vehicle industry.
With just seven words, Musk summed up his enthusiasm: “It kicks ass next-level.”
Musk’s comment came during a press conference where he discussed the latest advancements in Tesla’s electric vehicle lineup. The Tesla Cybertruck has been a highly anticipated release since its initial unveiling, and the Performance version promises to take things to a whole new level.
According to Musk, the Tesla Cybertruck Performance will feature cutting-edge technology and performance capabilities that will exceed all expectations. While specific details about the vehicle remain limited, Musk hinted at its impressive acceleration, handling, and range, suggesting that it will outperform any other electric truck on the market.
The Tesla Cybertruck has already generated a significant amount of pre-orders, and with Musk’s endorsement of the Performance version, it’s likely to attract even more attention from consumers and investors alike. This announcement could also have a positive impact on Tesla’s stock price, as it demonstrates the company’s commitment to innovation and its ability to stay ahead of the competition.
As Tesla continues to push the boundaries of electric vehicle technology, the Tesla Cybertruck Performance version is set to be a standout addition to their lineup. With Elon Musk’s stamp of approval, it’s safe to say that the electric truck market is about to witness a significant shake-up.
The rise of the apologetic CEO
We now live in the era of the apologetic CEO, but do those words have meaning and consequences?
There was a time when CEOs bore the stiff upper lip. Never explain, never complain. It worked for hundreds of years, essentially telling customers and employees “We are trying our best, but if you don’t like it, leave”. Hold the line.
But the Covid pandemic, and the rise of the Teflon-politician plus social media, have now changed business and the way a CEO and their company deals with the outside world.
Sorry now seems to be the easiest word.
It works like this:
- Major stufff up that the company expects will go unnoticed
- Denial of the stuff up or silence
- Public and then political backlash
- CEO accidentally says something publicly that makes it worse
- Board intervenes
- CEOs top media team hire external crisis comms team to fix things
- External camera crew hired and sets up in the lobby of corporate HQ or on the factory floor
- CEO makes a grovelling apology trying to connect with customers.
But what does it do to fix the original crisis? And has it become a cynical attempt at being seen to take ownership (the buck stops with me), but then nothing happens?
The Qantas case
Qantas prides itself as the national flag carrier, even though it’s a publicly listed company now. But it finds itself constantly caught in the grips of customers, unions, the media and the government.
Following the pandemic, Qantas found itself in a world of pain. On the plus side, travel was back in a big way and the profits would soon follow. In this instance, it was better to be the CFO than the CEO.
Qantas stood down thousands of workers, many of whom left the relatively low-paying fickle aviation industry for higher-paying, stable jobs on the other side of “air side”.
I recently met a tram driver who used to be a Qantas International pilot. Instead of trekking to Melbourne airport to start work, he now begins his shift by meeting the tram at the end of his street. Basically, the staff moved on.
As the post-covid era rolled along, bags were lost, flights were canceled and angry customers vented to the media, then-CEO Alan Joyce ran through the “PR crisis handbook” outlined above.
Deny, blame, admit, move on.
Here was Alan Joyce’s apology in August 2022:
“On behalf of the national carrier, I want to apologise and assure you that we’re working hard to get back to our best.”
Fast forward to this month, and Alan Joyce is out at Qantas. His replacement is his CFO, Vanessa Hudson.
CFOs focus on operations and streamlining processes but sometimes struggle with human connection. A CEO has to put everybody first, but a CFO has to put the company first.
Vanessa Hudson is a lower-profile CEO than Joyce, so far avoiding the spotlight, or being seen mingling with celebrity chefs.
A year after Joyce’s apology, Ms Hudson recorded a video statement to customers:
“I was a part of the leadership at the time, but clearly I wasn’t the chief executive then. I am the chief executive now and what I would say is that I would like to be judged by what we do now and how we behave going forward.”
While the CEO has changed, the messaging has not. This may soon happen, as Vanessa Hudson grows into the role and identifies people who need to be moved on and people who need to be moved in.
But once she builds the right team, listen to them. Often CEOs ignore internal advice and only listen to external consultants.
For passengers though, what difference does an apology make? What happened in that year after Alan Joyce apologied that made Qantas better for today?
Historically when Qantas has been in trouble, they unleash another rendition of I Still Call Australia Home during some sort of sports final.
It’s like the partner who keeps breaking trust and continually begs for forgiveness. It’s time to pack your bags and burn that red flag.
The Qantas dilemma
Qantas has some big issues that will take decades to fix. Airlines are slow-moving beasts.
Aside from the huge debt burden, unions that are bolstered by a High Court win, plus favourable governments running the country and the states, and an angry customer base ready to rock up with pitchforks, there are even more fundamental issues facing the new CEO.
Australians are famously egalitarian. We demand high service at a low cost, and we’re not afraid of complaining until things are changed. That’s how we’ve built this great nation and keep rolling Prime Ministers.
Jumbo sized problem
For decades, Qantas has been stuck with the wrong-sized planes. Not since the 747 has there been an aircraft that meets the comfort needs of passengers and the budgets of airlines at the same time.
Airlines have been demanding more fuel-efficient planes and aircraft manufacturers are trying to squeeze more range out of smaller carbon fibre frames.
Anyone who has flown a 787 Dreamliner will soon forget the LED windows, and remember how much more space there was on a 747 or A380. Anyone who has dropped an Airpod in economy knows what I’m talking about.
Australians are big people who require big planes and bigger seats with wider pitch.
Australia is a long way from anywhere. As is New Zealand, yet Air New Zealand has come up with far more innovative ways to keep passengers comfortable on long-haul flights than Qantas.
The airline industry has been marching to the same tune for decades, since the emergence of RyanAir and Southwest. Cheaper flights, poorer service, and a relationship with customers that is cost-based, not value-based. The rise of airport security only tipped the scales even further towards mean airlines.
For those times, Joyce was the right CEO for Qantas, as he had successfully built up Jetstar in Australia. And frankly, Qantas couldn’t carry on running as a government-funded airline.
The Crying CEO
Qantas is an example but far from the only company that struggles with its messaging. There are the CEOs that go even further.
Remember the CEO who took to LinkedIn to post a weeping selfie after making the decision to make staff redundant?
Braden Wallake runs the Ohio-based business-to-business marketing agency Hypersocia. The post received more than 6,700 comments and nearly 33,000 reactions.
Some LinkedIn users mocked Wallake’s post, calling him “out of touch” and “cringe-worthy” or suggested that he should focus on helping his former employees rather than on how the situation had affected him.
New CEOs Building Trust
The appointment of a new CEO marks a significant transition that can shape the future of an organisation.
Upholding a strong ethical compass reassures stakeholders that the CEO will make decisions aligned with the organisation’s core beliefs. This builds trust over time.
The CEO’s track record and expertise play a pivotal role. In the case of Vanessa Hudson, this will be her most difficult task, given she was holding the financial levers at the airline.
Apologising is good spin, but action is a must.
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