Restoring trust11 May 2014
On 29th October over 40 executives came together to judge finalists for the Ashridge Business School Leader of the Year and choose a winner from five exceptional leaders.
Setting the scene for the jury of peers, Kai Peters, CEO of Ashridge Business School, said that, in turbulent times, leaders need to manage constant change so must have the traits of transformational leadership.
“Together with the National Business Awards we believe that the 2014 Leader of the Year needs to be transformational in their organisation and industry; have a major impact on the strategic direction, growth and culture of their organisation; engage strongly with employees, stakeholders and wider society; demonstrate awareness of socio-economic and political trends; and be an authentic corporate citizen.”
Encouraging judges to consider the legacy and impact of this year’s finalists, Kai added that ‘leaders need to create net value for the long term not just for the present’, and judges should consider longevity and legacy.
“As the highest honour presented at the National Business Awards, this award must send a clear and confident message to the wider business and the wider community about the type of leader UK plc needs in order to prosper”, said Chair of Judges Dame Helen Alexander. “The Leader of the Year must be someone we can trust to be a representative of business.”
Leading a debate on the leadership traits demonstrated by the five finalists, and what should be recognised, Allister Heath, Deputy Editor of The Telegraph invited observations from the panel.
“For me, finalists are split into two main types of transformational leadership: systemic and organisational – so what should be recognised?” asked Mark Goyder, Founder Director of think tank Tomorrow’s Company.
Dax Lovegrove, Head of Innovation & Sustainability at Kingfisher, said ‘true leaders are visionaries’ and the award should celebrate leaders looking outside their organisation at wider societal issues - and what they and their organisation can do to address them.
Simon Blagden, Non-Executive Chairman of Fujitsu, said it’s much easier to measure tangible achievements within an organisation and judges should recognise the scale and context of these leaders’ achievements. Grant Thornton Partner Mark Henshaw developed this point saying judges should recognise ‘tangible achievements and long term legacy’.
UK Trade & Investment CEO Dominic Jermey said that all of the finalists had had a transformational impact on their organisations but “the finalists trying to transform the culture within the City are having an impact on 8% of the UK economy”.
“But how can you measure the impact of systemic change if it’s a work in progress?” asked David Higgins, Chairman of Inception Partners.
Picking up on Dax Lovegrove’s earlier point about leaders as visionaries, Gideon Hyde, Co-founder of innovation consultancy Market Gravity said that ‘leaders should be judged on their vision for the future and the impact they have had to achieve it’, whether it’s in their organisation or industry.
Executive mentor and author David Carter reframed the debate by saying: “As Dame Helen said, this is a Leader of the Year, someone exemplary who touches everyone in this country; so who has had the greatest impact and the widest relevance?”
Nigel Kershaw, Chairman of The Big Issue and Big Issue Invest, also referred to Dame Helen’s opening remarks about trust in business. Observing that all of the leaders shortlisted have championed trust in different ways, he asked which was the most exemplary and the most relevant to both the public and the business community.
Summarising the achievements of finalists in the context of trust, Allister Heath said Steve Morgan had restored trust in leadership in his turnaround of Redrow; Ronan Dunne’s engagement of O2 in CSR has proven that big business can be a force for social good; Saker Nusseibeh is changing the culture at Hermes and the fund management industry to reduce complexity; Moya Greene gained the trust of employees, management, and the unions to privatise Royal Mail; and Fiona Woolf is championing diversity and inclusive capitalism to restore trust in the City.
Who will win? Winners of all this year’s National Business Awards will be revealed at the ceremony on 11th November at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London. If you would like to join 1200 business leaders to celebrate the best of British business contact Matt Wilson on 020 7560 4106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.