19 June 2016

What’s the most important quality to have as a leader?

For me, it’s undoubtedly being supportive. Understanding how your team are feeling, how to motivate them and how to support them in times of need.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way. I was fascinated to read a piece of research on LinkedIn by Dr Travis Bradberry which showed that the higher a rank of job title, the lower the level of emotional intelligence.

What a shame! ceo eq

The research analysed more than a million people and it showed that there are still the stereotypical, brash, Machiavellian CEOs that we’re so used to seeing in American dramas.

Where else are we used to seeing this style of leadership? I can’t help but wonder of the effect that the Apprentice has had on budding CEOs. Alan Sugar’s finger pointing and dehumanising style is setting a horrendous example to aspiring business leaders, and I have seen the evidence for myself.

People are emulating the characters that they see as successful entrepreneurs, rather than looking to the great, inspiring and motivational characters, like Richard Branson for example – based on this research I can only assume that people are instead looking to people like Sugar and their ‘you’re fired’ attitude.

How can you have a happy team if they’re constantly afraid of the leadership team? If they’re berated, humiliated and demotivated? It’s impossible to run a healthy business this way.

The UKFast management team in our weekly catch up

The UKFast management team in our weekly catch up

In nature everything is either growing or dying and, as people wither under criticism and blossom under encouragement; it seems obvious how you help a team to succeed. It’s counter-intuitive too – can you honestly expect a team to want to provide a top level of service, to work hard and to want to succeed in a business where they don’t feel that they can speak openly with each management layer?

It is safe to say that we buck this trend at UKFast. The board of directors are on the board because of their supportive personalities and because of the emotional intelligence they’ve shown throughout their UKFast journey. The majority of our directors are home-grown, promoted throughout the years to a position in which they shape the future of our business. They’re the example that the rest of the business looks up to and aspires to emulate.

I am incredibly proud of how they lead our business with people always at the heart of every decision. We are still learning, of course, and we will always be growing and evolving to improve this every day.

The UKFast Team Arriving on Necker

The awesome UKFast directors arriving on Necker Island

The research did show that the CEOs with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more successful than those with lower levels – despite the overall level being low. I think this is a spark of potential in modern business. We’re seeing more and more unique workplaces, unusual perks like yoga or mindfulness and more humble, caring leaders setting the example.

Health and wellbeing, especially in tech, is taking the stage when it comes to employee engagement and workplace development. I read that the Greater Manchester Police force is offering mindfulness to its team now. Whilst many may dismiss this as unnecessary, consider the benefit to the business if less team members take sick leave for stress thanks to these sessions. There are benefits on both sides.

I think that you should lead a business as you lead your family. You are effectively the mum or dad of a whole team of people. Would you treat your family the way you treat your employees?

We strive to know our team, to understand the lives they have outside of work and to help wherever we can – not just to pay their wages. In business nowadays, there is too much crossover between work and personal lives to not work with a team this way.

Many of the ways that my wife Gail and I run our home are then reflected in UKFast too. The two places have very similar energy and that’s something I am continually proud of.

Speaking of family, I am going to go an enjoy Father’s Day with my four girls now. Wishing you all a great week, and a special nod to the Dads and father figures out there helping people to grow and be the best they can be.

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