Mar 10 2020| Leadership

Leadership Insights from Major General Patrick Marriott

What qualities do leaders need to develop and discard?

by Phil Eyre Founder

We were delighted to welcome Major General Patrick Marriott to Guernsey last week. He has had an illustrious career in the British Army, including as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he was also Director General for Leadership in the Army. 

I have found Patrick to be far removed from the stereotypical Major General; he is gracious in the extreme, humble, kind and full of fun. I'm grateful for his partnership in our work.  

Last Thursday, Patrick gave 35 leaders, drawn from businesses across various sectors in Guernsey, many leadership insights and stories. Here is what we learnt from him:

 

What are the qualities that make for good leaders?  

Of the qualities that good leaders possess, courage, integrity and trust are the most crucial. 

Courage includes the ability to overcome fear, remain focused on what is critically important and move forward in the right direction. It includes moral courage, making the right and best choice especially when faced with a dilemma. Courage is not lazy, even when the courageous decision is to do nothing. Neither is courage bravado - leaping recklessly into a situation without thought or preparation. It’s crucial to spend time being clear about your mission, know your values and develop confidence in what’s right ahead of time, before demanding that choices must be made.

Integrity is the most used word in corporate values, yet it is a quality that seemingly remains elusive. It also means many different things to different people.

In essence, integrity is doing the right thing, not necessarily the easiest thing. It is telling the truth, doing the right thing by your people, being consistent, living your values. It includes leadership accountability: holding yourself to at least as high a standard as others, especially when under pressure. It is the ability to draw from what you know to be right ‘deep down’, resisting the instinct to do something that seems easier in the short term. One amber warning signal that we are not acting with integrity is the thought, ‘can I get away with this?’.

Thirdly, trust is essential in a team, otherwise results will flounder. Trust must be continually developed and worked at and requires transparency, openness to other people's ideas, thoughtful planning, genuinely caring for team members and achieving results consistently. 

Often these qualities are tested in difficult conditions. Deciding between a good and bad course of action is straightforward. It's about how we act when the choices are all different shades of difficult. 

 

Key takeaway: do we spend enough time clarifying our mission, purpose and values in order to make courageous, high-integrity decisions when required, or are we immersed too much in the immediate tasks that need to be performed, with the result that we are too reactive?

 

How can you learn leadership?

Leaders can, and must, develop their leadership skills. Whilst some natural leadership can be observed, the qualities and practices that make for a great leader can be developed. No leader is above or beyond development, there is no limit to leadership quality or application.   

The best development is a mix of both training and education. Make time for education via courses, programmesand reading. Train by creating exercises in day-to-day, on-the-job learning, making time to reflect on practice and improve. In a busy working environment, being determined to take time out for education and training is essential to keep our leadership muscles strong and effective.  

Key takeaway: are we investing enough time in our leadership? Or do we expect ourselves and our colleagues to simply ‘just know’ how to lead? Are we intentional about learning from our experiences in our businesses?

 

How can I guard against leadership pitfalls?

Patrick explained that the biggest leadership pitfall, which he described as ‘misleadership’, is the leader’s need for over-control. Leaders who need to control every choice and outcome will suffocate their teams, crush creativity and damage morale. A bullying culture can develop, with team members afraid to raise problems, let alone creative ideas and solutions. Such a culture can be characterised by:

 

  • Lack of clarity, as information is tightly held or manipulated, depending on the audience;
  • Lack of impartiality, especially when it comes to rewards (given to the chosen few) and punishments (imposed on the many);
  • Blame: nobody takes responsibility for mistakes, which are blamed on other people or external factors;
  • Lack of genuine care for people. Wellbeing and corporate social responsibility initiatives are used cynically as recruitment and PR tools;
  • Internal competition is encouraged, rather than collaboration and teamwork;
  • High levels of employee absence and other signs of stress.

 

Patrick expounded a better way. Command is best ‘thrown out’ to team members. Leaders, therefore, are responsible for equipping and developing their people, inspiring and pressing them to advance their skills and responsibilities. That takes a less controlling, more vulnerable approach to leadership, whereby the leader is:

 

  • Keen to receive critical feedback if it will help them to improve their performance;
  • Open to everyone’s ideas, wherever they work in the business;
  • Willing to use their own mistakes as learning opportunities for their team;
  • Prepared to apologise when wrong;
  • Highly motivated to develop other people so that colleagues rise in the business;
  • Transparent in their motives, rationale, purpose and agenda.

  

Key takeaway: how are we guarding against over-controlling mis-leadership? In our work with leaders and teams, we spend time identifying specific tactics and practices that will help to overcome such a culture. We would be pleased to discuss this with you further.

  

What do we look for from leaders in times of crisis?

In a crisis, leaders need to bring calm, stability and then make a decision. This raises team confidence, enabling them to draw on their experience and training, handling the situation. Fear is contagious, but so is courage. Leaders must act in a manner that instils courage and confidence, otherwise fear will paralyse decision making. 

Once the decision is made, good leaders keep the team focused, persistent and determined. 

Leaders can prepare themselves and their teams for a crisis by practising in ‘peacetime’ - during periods of ‘business as normal’. Shock and surprise can create paralysis; preparing for scenarios in advance is crucial, even if the specific scenario is different, learning to recognise responses to shock and harnessing those responses will help prepare for the crisis. 

 

Key takeaway: do we only ever react, or do we prepare?

  

What do you hope to bring to the Leaders Advance Programme?

We launch the Leaders Advance Programme in May and Patrick is one of our collaborative partners for the programme. Aimed at senior leaders - those with influence on the direction and culture of their organisations - the programme is focused on the human factors that make for healthy, effective leadership and will deal with many of the issues that Patrick highlighted in his talk to us.

Patrick said, ‘I hope to bring three things to the Leaders Advance Programme:

 

  • ‘The first, a different perspective, drawing on my military career. Considering your leadership and issues from a different perspective will open new perspectives.
  • ‘The second is application. Leadership theory can be helpful but it is in real life application that we learn the most. We will work on what you can actually put into practice through the programme.
  • ‘The third is fun. There is plenty to worry about in the world and a little fun can go a long way. I want to help make this experience an enjoyable one for everyone on the course.’

 

The Leaders Advance Programme is a great opportunity to enhance the quality of your leadership. Spaces are limited. To find out more and reserve your place, click here

About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has sophisticated expertise in psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with, and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company in Guernsey, Collins Stewart (CI) Limited, now Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Phil has served on the boards of three charities, including BMS World Mission, a UK charity with over 80 employees and a global reach. Phil also ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and served as a non-executive director for Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil is a member of the Institute of Directors.

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