What makes a modern leader?

Caroline Newns of Caroline Newns Consultancy delivered a provocative presentation at IBIS ME 2018 at Le Meridien Hotel in Dubai today, when she urged the leaders in the room to ensure that they had the skills necessary to lead their businesses to where they need to be.

She said, ‘Businesses need to know where they’re going, and leaders need to take them there.’

She said it was vital that leaders harness the talent around them, to take a collaborative approach and to resist the temptation to control and coerce the workforce to get the results they want.

Caroline said that that was a particular issue in the Middle East. She explained, ‘We think because the workforce is transient it needs to be controlled. But I work with a company in Saudi Arabia to help it develop its own talent, and now 97% of their workforce is Saudi. I don’t know a single technician who doesn’t want to be valued, who doesn’t want to have a view.

‘I don’t like the colonial approach we sometimes see here. We’re not well-renowned in this industry for our good mangers. I know individuals who are bullies. I urge you to pull them up on it. And I don’t like the concept of senior executives dropped into the Middle East to spend two or three years in the role. How have you made a difference, how have you grown talent?’

She said today’s high performing organisations need a blend of leaders and managers, and explained there is a clear distinction between the two.

‘Leaders are the people who provide vision and produce change, who increase market share, generate new products and processes, and inspire. Managers meanwhile, are the people who plan, organise, monitor, control and evaluate.’

Both roles are fundamental to success. She added, ‘The way organisations are successful now is through a variety of inter-personal relationships, where we all know what our role is and how our role impacts on those around us.’

She said that create a high-performance business in today’s environment, you need to clarify who is accountable for what, and who is responsible.

‘I think there is a thirst for learning in the Middle East. But be careful whose advice you take. Grow your own talent, and be careful of those executives who are catapulted in for a few years to put a tick on their CV.’

She said that businesses have to be clear about their ‘why’, to develop a ‘critical thinking’ mindset that goes beyond simply using things – technology or talent – because it’s there, but to understand how it can further their business and enhance the culture within the company.

Caroline went on to highlight the skills she believes are critical for high performance skills managers: drive and achievement, flexibility and adaptability, collaboration, people management, communication and influence.

In the fast-moving automotive industry, the need for talented leaders is more urgent by the day. Caroline said, ‘It’s dangerous to assume that innovation is a distance away. Only 10 years ago BP executives denied the shift to low carbon and look at the industry now. But there is a different type of AI, appreciative inquiry. That’s about accepting where you are, not where you want to be, and working out how to get to where you want to be from there.’

And there is one more reason why good leaders, able to get the most out of their colleagues, is vital in this sector – trust.

Caroline concluded, ‘Most people here would agree that good managers can increase staff motivation. What we’ve got on the other side is the customer. We’re told the customer is king, and they’re better informed than ever. My argument is that’s not the case when we’re talking about aftersales. We can’t expect them to understand composites. They need to trust us.

‘So we need to ensure we talk and collaborate to ensure the customer is better served. I talk about ethical repair, and customers trust you if they know you’re putting their safety first.’