Young Leaders: Five things we learnt on next generation leadership
Traditional skills are no longer enough to succeed as a leader in this new world. In the Young Leaders Summit Lightning Session on Next Gen Leadership Skills, we heard on how global mindsets, technological savvy and business agility should be harnessed for current and future generations to realise potential.
We learned from CAs who have established forward-looking leadership skills to inspire and encourage teams and fellow colleagues. Joining us at the inaugural Young Leaders Summit was: ICAS President and Stagecoach founder, Sir Brian Souter, One Young CA 2016 winner Rimla Akhtar MBE CA, founder of RimJhim Consulting, and Baron Anyangwe CA, Management Consultant at North Highland.
1. Find your own story
A common theme of the talks was how to develop your own narrative and not look to copy other success stories. Baron described being a 'misfit' as an element of his career, and has changed his profession several times, from investment trading, to tax and even dabbling in acting: "There might be other people here who feel they don't fit where they are or are trying to fit into other people's narratives by comparing success stories, when you need to find your own story."
Rimla discovered that there was one area of life where nobody seemed to care about the colour of her skin or the fact that she was female; "That was the field of play, whether that was football or basketball; all that mattered was my ability, and so that confidence is something I've learnt in the sports arena.
It's about being different and true to yourself.
"I'm a competitive person on the field, but it wasn't about my narrative or my ability being compared to anyone else, it was about me comparing myself to myself. What do I want to do, and how do I want to do it to be the best version of my self. I think the reason I founded RimJhim consulting was partly about me wanting to put a statement out there about being better as a business in terms of our ethics and our morals and being more inclusive; I see inclusion as a theme throughout my life as well. It's about being different and true to yourself."
2. Find your passion
Sir Brian emphasised the importance of finding something you are passionate about, as it captures your imagination: "Determination is an important part of how you make progress, because I meet lots of people who have lots of great ideas, but it's about putting arms and legs on these ideas, and actually having the energy to follow through on them."
3. Authenticity is key
Rimla found a stand-out ingredient to her success as a leader: "If I reflect on my experiences, what it comes down to is authenticity. I don't look at individuals and think I need to be like them. Your personality is very unique and you have something to contribute. Being true to myself has helped me get to where I am now."
When something is so polished it can feel there's something not true about that.
Baron agreed: "Two of the words I had in my head before coming in today is authenticity and empathy. When you can relate to someone else's struggle and wanting to help others, I think those two factors naturally bring you into focus. When you are empathetic and authentic, people know you're genuine and want to approach you. When something is so polished it can feel there's something not true about that."
4. Learn from your inspiration
Sir Brian picked Richard Branson as the business leader he most admires: "One of the things I think is quite unique is that the people in his business feel like they really know him on personal level and that's because he has an amazing way with people."
Rimla felt family was a strong influencer for her life: "My mother has always been a leader in my life, I won't go into her story, but it was a difficult time coming from Pakistan into the UK on her own, and at the core of what she's about is moral and ethics and she's instilled that in me. She's always someone I go to for guidance."
Baron has been inspired by people who have fought the odds and managed their own success: "Growing up, I didn't read fiction or comics, I read autobiographies - especially success stories from those who have struggled - going up against the odds and sticking in there!"
5. Challenge the concept of leadership
All agreed that the concept of a leader is not the same as a manager. Sir Brian explained that there are two ways to manage people – by dominating or influencing the situation, and that the latter technique is a better mark of leadership. Baron agreed that we tend to look at leadership as the highest person in the organisation, which isn’t always the case; “Leaders serve rather than dominate.”
Being a leader is living the values that you are trying to embed in those around you.
Rimla noted that there is an important reflective discussion to be had on the difference between management and leadership: “It isn’t about being the head of an organisation, that’s more management – being a leader is living the values that you are trying to embed in those around you. You should be the first person who embodies those values.”