I was kindly asked to write the guest blog for my good friend Christine Oxenburgh at Freeth Cartwright Solicitors last week – a subject I find extremely interesting….Growth and the role of leadership. Here it is.
Growth is what everyone is talking about at the moment. Whether its public sector policy makers or entrepreneurs we all need growth. Easy to say but do we truly understand the implications of going for for it! Growth requires a vision; a sense of purpose, a plan, resilience, mental toughness, teamwork and a whole lot more. Whether you are trying to grow a business or turn around a failing school someone has to build a picture of what the future success looks like then execute a plan that gets everyone on board for the journey.
My own particular passion is around driving the entrepreneurial growth of UK plc. More specifically encouraging individuals who have got what it takes to pursue their ambition of being their own boss. This extends to supporting existing entrepreneurs to think bigger and truly maximise the potential of their business. As Adam Smith the Scottish philosopher and economist quoted in his book The Wealth of Nations back in 1776, “we are a nation of shop keepers”. Well not much has changed. The economy relies so heavily on the very small business. It amazes me that well over 90% of companies in the UK employ under 50 people. Very few ever get past employing more than 25 people. So why is this? The reasons are wide ranging but all too often the stresses and strains that come with growth are just one step too far for most people. Taking financial risks and the associated personal, professional and commercial challenges which the journey inevitably brings result in the pursuit of a more pedestrian voyage.
There is much debate at the moment about a special group of businesses commonly referred to as gazelles. These are fast moving businesses that exhibit sustained levels of growth over a three-year period. They achieve growth rates above 20% per annum and their contribution to the economy is phenomenal. Independent research conducted by Nesta shows that 6% of ambitious, innovative businesses over the coming years will deliver 50% of new jobs. So the answer is that we need more of them. Game changing leadership lies at the heart of driving more gazelles and therefore improved growth; individuals who can create a culture that enthuses and motivates others to perform and deliver.
There are many schools of thought on what great leadership look like. However my own insights, (derived from the great fortune of being immersed in a world of successful entrepreneurs) would lead me to conclude that there are ten essential ingredients. Most notably, leaders who drive growth:
- Have an ability to embrace and drive change to the benefit of all stakeholders
- Are personally very driven with aligned personal and professional intentions
- Are future focused and have clarity of what needs to be achieved
- Operate by the philosophy that success is down to 20% thinking and 80% doing – progression involves iteration and this builds momentum
- Communicate their purpose and values with passion both internally and externally
- Build a team ethos with roles and responsibilities of all clearly mapped out and monitored
- Ruthlessly guard their reputation and have a moral compass which ensures all decisions are made with best intentions
- Have performance management and key performance indicators (KPI’s) embedded throughout their organisation – they know if they are on track
- Have a mindset aligned to success. This is supported by an innovative positive mental attitude that delivers the edge
- Are readers. They commit to personal development and usually have a mentor who helps locate personal blind spots. They are very self aware, knowing very clearly their strengths and weaknesses.
Leadership and growth are inextricably linked; let’s hope the business stars of tomorrow will emerge over the coming months. A new generation of go getting individuals who will drive innovation, wealth creation, exports and jobs. They are the heros of the economy.