The Things Every Business Leader Should Know 

gigcmo
15/11/2022
We have been learning some crucial lessons from the UK government of late. Perhaps the most potent of them all is the fundamental need for leaders to have a clear set of values, a clear directive and the capacity to unite teams in a common cause. 
  
It is ok to course correct; it's necessary to have people within your ranks who will challenge your thinking, and it's essential to have the agility to evolve. However, the most intangible skill a leader - in business or government - needs to have, is the ability to unite teams and galvanise them to achieve their goals. 
 
In short, teams must believe in you and your message; that's more than a marketing slogan - that's about brand purpose.  

The power of leadership   

Of course, this is not the first government to lose its sense of unity. It possibly is the first government to replace two leaders in a matter of weeks. Still, maybe Mr Sunak can remedy that in his pledge to work for "unity and stability", “integrity and humility".   
 
Historically, the Labour Party lost its direction under the leadership of Michael Foot, resulting in the loss of 60 seats in the 1983 general election. Conversely, the rallying, purpose-driven cry of Tony Blair, who heralded the arrival of New Labour in 1997, saw the party defeat the conservatives with a landslide 179-seat majority.   
 
Campaign Live has described his campaign as "perhaps the most brand-savvy political project in British history". It was crafted "to appeal to 'Middle England', the aspirational upper-working and middle class that supported Thatcher but became disillusioned with John Major's government, which could be persuaded to switch to Labour if they thought it reflected their ideas and ideals." 
 
Of course, this year has been a chance to reflect on different examples. Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was arguably the most proficient at showing that leadership doesn't need to be loud to be effective. The CEO Magazine wrote:   
 
"Part of the reverence we have for the Queen was that she ruled genuinely and compassionately. Always putting the people's needs above her own, including her own family. The Queen was a trusted leader – she made decisions even when it was difficult, she had no personal agenda other than to serve her country and she was consistent in her approach."  

Leading, not people pleasing  

Of course, we live in a world that's often heavily governed by the need to chase the next headline, get the most ‘likes', and where the right soundbite is perceived to be more important than substance. It is, as Margaret Thatcher put it, a good way to compromise your principles:  
 
"If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."  
 
Liz Truss famously echoed that sentiment when she said she was prepared to be unpopular in her willingness to take "difficult decisions". While a commendable sentiment in a perennial popularity contest, she seemed to miss the point, taking entirely unfounded actions and trying to enforce them in a dictatorial style based seemingly on personal whim. It was a matter of hours into her premiership before it was abundantly clear the emperor had no clothes.   
 
It is a lesson that CEOs can also learn from. The highly competitive nature of business and the ephemeral digital world in which so many operate can make it easy to gravitate towards snap decisions, pursue reactive policies, and act on impulse, especially if you're trying to correct dwindling sales. However, while actions may need to be taken promptly, the strategy and framework within which those decisions are made should provide a clear and trusted architecture. That framework is characterised by the following:  
  • Honouring your brand values rather than pursuing damaging policies  
  • Operating within a carefully considered playbook that allows for flexibility  
  • Having a trusted infrastructure of people and processes to sense check actions and help safeguard the business  
While there is no such thing as an infallible solution, infrastructure and strategy are the risk-mitigating principles that nurture good decision-making and strong leadership. It is one of the reasons that, at gigCMO, our clients don't merely benefit from our experience but from stress tested methodologies and proven processes to make your business more effective. 

Surround yourself with good people  

This brings us to another point about leadership - no man is an island. It's often said to be lonely at the top, and to some extent, that's true. However, you are not the only business leader; you are in good company when it comes to others who have experienced the challenges and opportunities you are taking today. Johnson and Truss appeared to surround themselves with only those said to capitulate to their ideologies. The wise man surrounds himself with those who want him to succeed and, as a result, are prepared to disagree.  
 
This is not to cultivate a combative environment but a collaborative one, where you can trust the people around you to make suggestions based on what they believe is best for your company rather than being motivated purely by personal gain. While anyone in any organisation wants it to do well, business leaders need to surround themselves with individuals who want the tide to rise so that it can lift all boats. In political jargon - party before personal gain, and people before the party.   
 
For business leaders, surrounding themselves with good people stems from the trusted circle of the C-Suite and your non-executive directors through to your team members. Surround yourself with people who champion the business and believe in your vision. In turn, make sure you champion individuals and give them something to believe in.  

Seek new business opportunities   

The other thing we are learning from our esteemed leaders is the importance of remembering we exist on a world stage - not in a vacuum. That means we must consider our relationships with others, both in our home market and overseas.  
 
Our CEO, Mark Magnacca, recently joined the panel for a Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce, High Commission of Canada and the Institute of Directors' Panel Discussion and Networking Reception.   
 
In a connected world, businesses still need to grow domestically and overseas. We are all united in our thinking about the perennial need for business growth. The UK is a medium-sized country in a vast world, and at this event last month, we spoke about British opportunities in Canada and vice versa. There are many, but it comes back to one thing in this highly competitive market - your value proposition.   
 
Businesses need to know their value proposition, know that it works, and have leadership that galvanises the entire company to the cause. When leadership is at its best, it can move the financial markets. Unfortunately, it can do that at its worst as well.
 
As a business that's all about leadership and its impact on business outcomes, we know which side of the spectrum we choose to be on.