In what continues to be an unpredictable and ever-changing political and corporate environment, forward-looking business leaders need to constantly think about what they need to do to remain competitive and relevant. One of the biggest priorities in achieving this is having the right mix of leadership qualities and skills and capabilities needed to drive business performance.
To build a great business, you need great leadership. True leadership goes beyond a predetermined mould, as effective executives must adapt to diverse environments and inspire their teams to rally behind their vision. Truly great leaders are those who are able to adapt to their surroundings and inspire their team to support their vision. So what makes a great leader in today’s world?
Rather than listing off a selection of leadership traits, three fundamental behaviours stand out that I’ve seen successful leaders implement to help them continuously grow and thrive:
- Personal and professional development – As Vince Lombardi once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work”. Exceptional leaders make time to develop themselves, finding ways to access new information. Whether leading a large corporation or building a start-up business, leaders grow through evolving their innate abilities, often developing new skills along the way.
- Self-reflection – In order for leaders to advance and expand their capabilities, it’s critical for them to asses themselves and their ways of working. In particular, understanding their strengths, weaknesses, behavioural patterns and how to influence others.
- Responding to feedback – To succeed as an effective leader, it’s necessary to request and receive feedback from your teams. This shows a willingness to learn and will help to understand what’s working and where some improvement might be required. Whether positive or constructive, feedback is a great way to help reach your goals.
Despite there being a multitude of resources on great leadership, finding great leaders is not a simple or straightforward task. To start, it’s essential for businesses to identify their skills gap, and recognise the different capabilities they require to achieve their ambitions. They then need to find ways to attract the people with this skillset to help accomplish these goals.
How can businesses attract high performing diverse leaders?
Firstly, they need to be careful not to make diversity a tick-box exercise where they unintentionally exclude groups of talented individuals. It’s important to consider individuals who offer diversity of thought, diversity of background and diversity of education.
One effective way to attract high-performing, diverse leaders is to explore talent beyond their own industry, in some cases where something revolutionary is taking place. More and more, we’re seeing companies wanting a skillset that is particularly strong outside of the industry they are in. As an example, the skills and expertise typically visible across consumer facing industries – customer experience and understanding, responsiveness to consumer demands, loyalty tactics, digital savviness – are fast becoming the skills desired in most other sectors. Bringing those transferable skills into a business can provide diverse thinking and experience.
To ensure there is a constant pipeline of accessible talent, businesses should consider partnering with schools and educational establishments. This will give them the opportunity to let students know about different career prospect, whether in a specific industry or a particular type of role. Businesses have the power to get today’s youth excited about jobs other than doctor, fireman, lawyer. This approach can generate considerable exposure to diverse educational backgrounds.
Over the past few years, companies have become much better at listening to the needs of their employees. While the move to hybrid working has helped retain, and encourage more women back into the workforce, businesses need to understand that all people are different and will enjoy different things. It’s key that businesses continue to celebrate these differences and encourage employees to be authentic at work. More and more companies are now offering flexible benefits that aren’t a one-size-fits-all scheme. As an example, at Redgrave we’ve moved from a fitness option where everyone has a gym membership, to a flexible wellness model where employees can choose between classes, gym, spa or beauty treatments. Establishing more inclusive benefits and ways of working will help to build a more inclusive workplace, comprising of diverse thinking and values.
It’s a clear top priority to create a trusting environment and encourage healthy working for everyone. By doing this, you’ll do a better job of attracting and retaining high-performing people.
Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.
— Oprah Winfrey
By Paul Burnell