What makes a good business leader?

Dr Christian Stadler

Dr Christian Stadler

NSBL asks what are the ingredients that make a good business leader?

Conservatism not charisma is the vital ingredient for a successful business leader, claims a new study by Warwick Business School.

Research into the leaders at 100-year-old European companies found that ‘intelligent conservatism’ trumps charismatic leaders.

Own Steve Jobs

Every company is looking for their own Steve Jobs, a charismatic leader that can power their firm to new heights.

But after looking at some of Europe’s biggest and most enduring firms like Royal Dutch Shell, Glaxo and LaFarge, Dr Christian Stadler, who is a Professor at the university, found that bosses at the other end of the spectrum were a better bet.

He comments: “In our study of the leadership and strategy of 100-year-old European corporations, we found a different style of leadership was far more common among companies that have achieved enduring success — something that we call ‘intelligent conservatism’.

“This is a surer way to lead successfully rather than relying on charisma. Six out of 18 winners of Germany’s Manager of the Year award went on to make huge strategic mistakes that badly damaged their companies.

“The understated ‘intelligent conservative’ leader doesn’t make such big mistakes.”

Wrong direction

Dr Stadler says the problem with charismatic leaders is just that – charisma. Their exceptional powers of persuasion means there is little resistance if they are taking the company in the wrong direction.

He comments:“If your company is heading in the right direction, a charismatic leader will get you there faster.

“Occasionally, charismatic leaders pop up, but for the most part, the leaders of these 100-year-old European companies have succeeded by listening to their people and relying on old-fashioned industry expertise.

North Somerset views

Over the last couple of months NSBL posed the question – what makes a good business leader to various business figures.

Colin Skellett, Executive Chairman of Wessex Water and Chairman of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, had this to say:“From my point of view a good business leader needs to have a clear view of where they are trying to take the business and inspire others with this vision; they also need to be able to influence and get on with people.

“We are obsessed with technology and systems – which are of course important and integral to doing business – but building relationships with people is so vital. A good leader needs to be able to do this.”

Clear vision

Nick Horne

Nick Horne

Nick Horne, Chief Executive of Knightstone Housing comments:“A good Chief Executive or business leader has to have a clear vision for the business based on a real understanding of how customer needs can best be met in the future.

“To deliver that vision requires strength of character, adaptability and a willingness to listen, ask for and take advice from the wider team.

“A good leader must also be prepared to take brave decisions and have a passion for continually looking to improve.”

Military perspective

Chris Paton is former head of Afghan Strategy and a senior government advisor. He is currently Managing Director of Quirk Solutions and a former Royal Marine.

Chris comments:“The first quality of a good leader is to invest trust in those who work in the business. To trust staff to operate within the parameters set and create a culture that brings people together.

“It is valuable to be agile of mind as well and to be able to listen to what people tell you and not to always impose your own thoughts. A good leader’s decision should also be final but it should have become final via a collegiate and collaborative ownership of the decision.”

 

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