Organisations are about people – leadership is about putting people at the heart of everything an organisation does. It’s about creating an environment of constant learning and collaboration, allowing people to be the best they can be each day.
My passion for leadership grew out of two careers: one in Olympic sport as an Olympic rower for 10 years; the other as a diplomat working for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, specialising in stabilisation and conflict-related issues around the world. Both careers were about people trying to do their best under extraordinary pressures, and I am fascinated by how we learn to raise our game, work as a team, be resilient and achieve high performance levels.
Motivation, enthusiasm, accountability and additional discretional commitment are just some of the products of effective leadership. In my view the effective leader first gains outstanding relationships and trust with their team that more than compensates for the pressures and tensions that can be caused by different psychological make ups and approaches. The leader takes responsibility for creating clear direction through consultation and then ensuring that momentum is quickly gained. With a keen eye on the future and a tenacious approach to “getting there” the effective leader is a long way to creating success.
I can clearly remember being in Glencoe with a group of young adults. We had a plan to walk the ‘Pap of Glencoe’ but many of the group viewed this as a pointless exercise. Through encouragement, positive attitude and no small amount of influence and persuasion we managed to get the group up to the summit. It took a few hours but no-one could have missed just how much the group changed along the way. The individuals grew in stature, they gained self-belief and confidence, they talked and bantered and they were in awe as the scenery spread out before them. It struck me there and then that experiential education was massively impactful and that sensitive, positive leadership was a core ingredient. I wanted to try and understand why. What was it that contributed to transforming those young people, if only for an afternoon, and my passion for leadership was born!
By creating a culture in which individuals are enabled to contribute at their highest level of capability and continue to develop towards their full potential. Then, by harnessing those individual contributions in the service of the organisation’s purpose with wisdom, energy, decisiveness and humility.
I learned lessons about what constitutes good leadership from many sources long before I thought about these qualities as ‘Leadership’. I was lucky to know and work with people who set examples of moral courage, sense of purpose, steadfastness, humanity and so forth.
When I joined The Leadership Trust under its founder, David Gilbert-Smith, in 1990 I began to see how profoundly the experience of its leadership development programmes could affect people and – in some cases – radically change their lives and their thinking for the better. This capacity for change was what inspired and excited me then and it still does!
Successful organisations thrive through an environment that embodies trust, openness, creativity, honesty, adaptability and purpose. As leaders we set the tone and atmosphere within our teams through our words, actions and behaviour. All too often we see organisations where the leadership stifles these essential qualities – effectively condemning themselves to mediocrity or failure.
My passion for Leadership stems from two sources. From my 25 years as a Director and Leader in the financial services and professional services/consultancy sectors learning how to lead diverse teams sometimes spread across 4 continents – often learning the hard way! In parallel, 20 years as an associate coach/facilitator and more recently as a course director at the Leadership Trust, has allowed me to see the huge personal growth people can make through leadership development.
This is a very complex question. Leadership is essentially about building and sustaining cultures of high performing, energised, and motivated teams in order to enable creativity, innovation, collaboration, and adaptive thinking and action.
Effective leadership creates sustained and embedded success when leadership is shared. This happens most effectively when top leaders encourage and inspire acts of leadership across all levels of the organisation. Effective leadership, then, means developing leadership capabilities in others, and enabling people to make their unique contributions to the organisation’s success through their many cumulative acts of leadership.
Many of us initially learn about leadership from personal experience when working for both good and bad role models. I was no exception. In the early years of my career I encountered both outstanding leadership and appalling leadership. The difference in how I felt about my work when inspired by an outstanding leader compared with being demotivated by a poor leader was enormous. Later in my career, I began to examine the wider implications of good and bad leadership on organisations, society, and the planet. My passion for leadership grew when I realised how fundamental leadership is for enhancing the quality of all of our lives, not only by creating high performing organisations, but also by building a successful, just, and balanced society.
Effective leaders know how to motivate and enable their teams. Well-led organisations are highly energised; shared purpose and trust allow speedy and effective decision making – well led organisation solve problems and outperform the competition. Leaders make the most of the teams they work in; focussing everyone’s efforts, making the most of people’s skills, and keeping them focussed on success.
Leadership makes the difference between the current situation and the best possible outcome. I have seen organisations with strong leadership cultures, where everyone is allowed to lead, and I’ve compared them to process ridden organisations where every decision is referred ‘upwards’; the leadership culture wins every time. I’ve seen ordinary, modest, humble people working as leaders and making a huge difference; on operations in the army, in business, and on expeditions. And from Leadership Trust open course and coaching, I’ve seen delegates go back to their organisations and have a dramatic positive difference. So, I am passionate about leadership; it is the key to excellence.
For me, effective leadership creates a fertile environment for people to thrive. It enables greater empowerment and freedom for the people to utilise their talents. The very talents for which they were recruited. It encourages a greater sense of personal responsibility, not just accountability. It is crucial to the success of any organisation.
My passion was sparked by my Leadership Trust experience back in 1999 and seeing the results achieved through implementing my learning with my corporate team in a harsh commercial environment. Since then my passion for developing leadership skill in others and myself continues to grow. The learning never stops!
Potential. Imagine if everyone in your organisation could bring just 10% more of their potential. With effective leadership throughout the organisation, a good atmosphere is created allowing for mutual trust and respect for everyone’s potential. Rather than competing, support and encouragement draws out strengths that are lying dormant, confidence builds and contribution increases. I believe success comes faster with a focused team using their potential.
My passion started whilst working at Akzo, an organisation that truly believed in effective leadership. That resulted in most of us attending the Leadership in Management course, creating a culture and language that was common to us all. I personally love the complexity of leadership. I like variation and each time either the team or the context changes, my leadership has to change or evolve providing new and intriguing challenges that keeps my passion for leadership alive.
Through generating Followership. It’s a simple and as complicated as that! In organisations with many people it’s not feasible to direct achievement of goals. People have to understand for themselves what is needed. Then they need the skills to do what is required. Finally, and crucially, they need to feel motivated to apply their knowledge and skills. Effective leaders know where their people are on each of these because they have trust. They ensure understanding, skills and motivations come together to create success.
Originally from great historical leaders like Winston Churchill and more recently from seeing the benefits of great leadership for myself. Churchill said “success is not final, failure is not fatal it is the courage to continue that counts”. I believe that authentic leaders live this by being themselves, showing their mistakes and weaknesses, enabling others to be confident in their actions. Making the best decisions you can, in the moment, creates momentum and I have been lucky to work with some great leaders who have brought this alive.
It is chicken and egg for me. People with leadership intent and capability need broader environments in which they can thrive, whilst it is the leaders at the higher levels of the organisations that need to define and embody that organisational purpose and culture. I believe that accelerated and sustained performance will only come for organisations when confident leaders, are allowed to run effective teams within very clear, ambitious and supported culture.
A curiosity of people, as a fifth generation officer in the British Army, a constant need for purpose and progress, leading professional cricket and rugby teams, a belief that things can always be better, and as a previous and current Director of retailers, hospitality companies, service sector organisations and charities.
Before answering this question it is important to highlight what I believe to be the most important characteristic of effective leadership: “being adaptable”. Effective leadership is the art of understanding when it is time to be clear and firm, supportive and decisive, inspiring and accommodating, in relation to all stakeholders in order to achieve success.
From my early twenties on I was leading a small team. I had a huge sense of responsibility and loved to improve work processes to increase efficiency and at the same time enthuse and inspire my colleagues to work to the best of their abilities. It’s only in the last 10 years that I have become fully self-aware of my working style and hence the passion for leadership. “Purpose” is crucial in anything I do. It is the strong desire for meaning which inspires me every day to create new ideas on how organisations can engage people more, in order to use all their available human potential.
Lao Tzu effectively summed up leadership when he said that ‘a leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves’. What was true over 2,500 years ago is still true today. Leadership releases potential throughout an organisation to enable people to be better than they might think they can be. In doing so, it helps the individuals and the organisation meet unexpected challenges, seize opportunities, and meet customers’ ever growing expectations. Give people the opportunity, and they will never cease to amaze you with their ingenuity and brilliance.
Initially from the sports field where Aristotle’s maxim that ‘the sum is greater than the parts’ is as relevant for the amateur, the professional, the corporate, the public sector and the not-for-profit organisation. Having been fortunate to play in truly high performing teams, I then spent 24 years in The Royal Marines where teamwork and leadership at all levels was a requirement and was present on a daily basis. I then became fascinated with the difference between command and leadership and after a seminal week at The Leadership Trust was a Programme Director for five years. I simply adore what I am privileged to do – walk along side people and organisations as they grow and develop to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
Effective leadership recognises the need for balance across all aspects of the business including risk, innovation and stakeholder engagement to create a healthy entity. As such it embodies humility, tenacity and passion at every level to develop a culture in which everyone it touches feels significant whatever their involvement or role. For this to happen, leaders who are effective seek to understand themselves, engage with their emotions in an authentic manner, surround themselves with great people, develop everyone and share success.
There is no one single source; a range of people from my parents, (some) teachers and outstanding people I have worked with have had a terrific influence on me and have led me to firmly believe that leaders and leadership is down to nurture not nature. As such, searching for and utilising potential in everyone – rather than a select few – is both the most important and most rewarding responsibility of every leader. To work with people and aid them on their journey to be at their best is a marvellous privilege. I also have 4 rules by which I look to live my life – do things that make you happy, do the right thing (without exception), do something that stretches and challenges you and live your life with purpose. My work helps me strive to all four!
Ask anyone working with a poor leader what the impact on the organisation is and you start getting some answers; low morale, poor performance, conflicts, inefficiencies… by contrast, effective leaders create success by engaging their people, giving them a sense of direction, purpose and belonging. They know themselves well and they also know, trust and value their people. They sense when to steer and more importantly when to get out of the way (or in one of my colleague’s words “take their hands off the hand break”)
I had the privilege of experiencing superb leadership in my early 20s while at BT and my boss at the time, Loic Le Friec sent me to the Leadership Trust for a week long course. I fell in love there and then with both leadership and experiential learning. Leadership was not the mysterious gift of a few chosen ones after all! It could be taught and it worked! I have not looked back since.
Success starts with a deep understanding about what, when focused upon and implemented, will create advantage for the organisation or a team within it. I think this is the primary function of formal leadership.
Thereafter it’s the responsibility of everyone in that organisations or that team to shape their efforts, as circumstances change and opportunities arise, to deliver those advantages. This is what informal leadership is about for me. You can’t have one without the other.
I have been lucky to have worked in great organisations over a long career and have experience the vibrancy of well led, enabled teams and have blossomed when work has been characterised by a daily search for ‘astonishment rather than torpor.’
Through encouraging and enabling their people to give their best, at all times, in all situations, at all levels. Effective leaders do what they say they will do, gaining trust and respect from others. Success for an organisation goes beyond a set of learned behaviours, effective leaders draw on their courage, show integrity, have tolerance, understand the needs of their team and the organisation whilst being decisive and getting the job done.
Over 20 years ago I attended a leadership programme here at The Leadership Trust. I enjoyed the feeling of being challenged experientially in a safe environment. I went on to become an Associate Trust Facilitator, building on from that early experience through enabling and developing others. I applied this learning to my clinical and leadership roles both in the NHS and charity healthcare sector. I love to work alongside people who are both enthusiastic and determined, willing to learn together, and take responsibility in times of success and challenge.
“I am listened to.
I know I can make a difference.
I feel motivated to do more.
I am valued.
I feel energised as I understand.
I am respected and respect others.
I know I am supported.
I feel empowered to think for myself.
I believe in what I am doing.
I am inspired by those around me.”
If there is leadership throughout an organisation which enables each of us to be as above then success is being created.
For success in an organisation there needs to be leadership which enables individuals to be themselves and think for themselves. Many of us would like to be “better” leaders and thus we need to build upon on our natural abilities and learn new skills. Effective leadership needs development of our self-awareness to continue to do what we do well and practice what we don’t do so well.
Through teaching marine conservation I realised that the way I behave and the words and actions I use influence and impact on all those around me. It led me to understand and believe that we all have the capacity to inspire and create an inner energy in others. My passion for leadership comes through knowing that leadership is a balance, an art, a science and above all else a thought-provoking learning curve.