How to be the kind of leader people want to follow

Angela Munroe
Marketing Lead UK & Ireland
Microsoft (Nokia)
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Saatchi & Saatchi's Richard Hytner shares his fresh approach on what it takes to be an effective leader of a small business with Angela Munroe from Microsoft Devices.

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One of the challenges that small business owners often talk about is effective leadership. What does it take to be a good leader? And what is the right kind of leadership style to take a small business to the next level?  I put these and other questions to Richard Hytner. As a professor of marketing at London Business School and deputy chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi worldwide, Richard has experience of working with leaders in companies of all shapes and sizes. And, importantly, he’s been there himself. He’s recently written a book exploring new thinking in leadership.
Richard, what do you think makes a leader?
Put simply, someone who inspires others to deliver remarkable outcomes. You’re only a leader if you have followers. Unless you wish to be a lone wolf, at some stage you will need a number two (and three and four). When the business has achieved even the most modest growth, you will need others to shoulder some of the burden and share some of the joy.
What are the rules for being a good leader?
You need to be trusted by all those fighting for your cause. You need to generate confidence through your credibility, competence and actions; and you need to ooze emotional intelligence. Knowing the effect of your behaviour on those around you is essential.
Any suggestions to help entrepreneurs to become better leaders?
I suggest they adopt a simple system for assigning responsibilities that preserves the primacy of their final decision-making whilst acknowledging the importance of those around them. Call yourself the A, because you are ultimately accountable, and surround yourself with a circle of Cs – Consiglieri – advisors, deputies, coaches who make, shape, illuminate and enhance the success of you as the leader of your business.
Defining the relationship you want with your Cs is much under-rated: how and when do you want them to communicate with you? What decisions can they make without referring to you? How will you resolve conflicts when, inevitably, they arise?
Most big businesses make a mess of this. In your business, demand that every relationship counts.
How do you select the right Cs?
You get the Cs you deserve, so become the A that the best people want to support. Ask yourself candidly what you lack and identify the parts of the job that give you the least satisfaction. Invariably the tasks that sap your energy are those that somebody else would love to take on. Remind yourself of your business dream, and find the person most likely to help you achieve it.
There are broadly four types of C.
Loadstones, people who take the weight off your shoulders, are helpful in small companies. They free you up to grow your business. Think about the best caddies who carry the bags but also know the course better than their golfer.
Cs can also act as Anchors, truth-tellers unafraid to tell you when you’ve got it wrong. When budgets are tight, consider assigning this role to your partner at home.
Deliverers are essential. They are fixers who get things done and make things happen.
And finally, an Educator is key, someone who enlightens you with fresh ideas, provocative thinking and wise counsel.
How should leadership evolve to support business growth?
Because it’s their baby, leaders of small businesses often feel the uncontrollable urge to have their hands on everything. There’s nothing wrong with leading from the trenches. Often it’s the best way to show new joiners that flawless execution, speed and obsession with customer care are what you expect from them. But, as the business grows, the leader has to evolve from always-on, hands-on-everything, to sometimes-off, coach-to-the Cs.
People need to feel their A’s energy, not see them drained by the stress of day-to-day drudge. At the same time, capable Cs need and deserve autonomy. When you hire a C, be sure to share your personal purpose and insist on seeing theirs. Agree explicitly how you can help them achieve their ambitions whilst they help you to achieve yours. The most rewarding relationships are steeped in reciprocity.
How has technology impacted on the leadership role?
A good leader will use technology to help absorb intelligence and ease the burden of admin. Your device can act as a virtual Loadstone. In the Educator role, the internet also plays its part, but never the full score, as it keeps you alive to ideas and possibilities. Flexible working and autonomy motivate entrepreneurial leaders. These are enhanced by technology as it helps us to stay in touch and access, edit and share information wherever we are.
As the boundaries between home and office blur, it is important that we remember that work and life aren’t distant cousins but are now fully integrated. If we’re happy and fulfilled in our social lives, we’re likely to be better leaders and vice versa. When technology makes our lives easier it is a good thing, but it’s only ever as good as its users. Leaders need to make sure that technology serves them and that they do not become slaves to their screens. Even a quick glance at your mobile in a meeting signals that you have more important things to attend to. Good people deserve focus.
For more of Richard’s thinking on leadership download his new book, Consiglieri, Leading from the Shadows.
To see Richard talking about his new book, visit and follow him on Twitter @RichardHytner
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