Apr 27 2018| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
Earlier this month, Leaders Consultancy participated in the IoD Management Shadowing programme. Willow Bearder, a Ladies College student in her first year of Sixth Form, shadowed Phil Eyre for three days, gaining invaluable insight into how Leaders applies its unique training tools to identify people’s missions and values and improve working practices.
At the conclusion of her placement, we asked Willow to turn the tables and talk to Phil for our series of interviews with Channel Islands business leaders.
WB: Why did you choose this career path?
PE: My career started out in a very different direction; working in the finance sector for Cannacord Genuity. Whilst I was successful in my job, I realised there was a broad range of humanity that I didn’t know or understand.
I had a deep desire to find out what makes people tick and analyse what helps us to perform better and I realised that I could do this by choosing a career that would allow me to work with a wider cross-section of the community.
WB: How do you see your career developing?
PE: I think that careers evolve as we go along and that enjoyment of work isn’t dictated by career title. Any role – lawyer, accountant, investment manager, HR business partner, any job, can be shaped uniquely; the title doesn’t define the entire working experience.
As foudner and owner, I have the distinct privilege of completely shaping my current career into what works for me. I can make Leaders Consultancy my own, so as time goes by, I’m evolving my career into what I enjoy and shaving away the areas of work that don’t energise me so I can focus on the areas that do.
I expect my role, job and career to change as time goes on and I’m looking forward to seeing that evolution.
WB: In your opinion, what is a leader, and what is a leader’s purpose?
PE: Leadership is such a fascinating subject. When I started out, I had no idea how philosophical issues interact with human elements to shape leadership.
The leader’s role is, predominantly, to direct people to a better future - not just to something different but to a better place.
In a business sense, the leader’s role is to set the vision, asking questions like ‘where is a business going and why?’ It’s about inspiring, encouraging and challenging the organisation and its people to move towards that place. There are good leaders who do it well and others that do it badly but, ultimately, the end goal is advancement.
WB: Do you think anyone could make a good leader, or are some people more suited to leadership than others?
PE: Philosophically, I think everyone can make a good leader. Most people are already leading in some way, shape or form. In business leadership, there are certain characteristics that naturally lend themselves well to leadership and, in most instances, these characteristics can, and indeed should, be learnt if they aren’t already inherent.
Ultimately, some leaders may have to work harder than others but these skills and qualities can and should be nurtured. Good leaders are always learning.
WB: Psychometric testing helps to identify people’s strengths and values. Which values do you think are important for a leader?
PE: There are a few. We’ve researched this in great detail through our work, but an overarching understanding is that morally courageous people make the best leaders and this can be demonstrated through three key values.
The first is courage; courage in your convictions and knowing that what you are bringing to the world is good, valuable and unique. Poor leaders don’t know why they’re making decisions so this character trait is essential.
Secondly, servitude; it’s about serving the world in some way, whether that’s improving lives or helping the the environment somehow. a sense of improvement is essential.
Finally, integrity; doing the right thing, not just taking the easy option. Good leaders must be authentic and understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them. The best leaders demonstrate honesty and transparency by being the same person at home as in business.
WB: Do you think psychometric testing may be more beneficial to particular groups of people than others, for example for people who are new to their career pathway e.g. young graduates?
PE: Psychometric testing is a useful tool to garner feedback, grow in self awareness and gain objective pointers for change, but they are just a tool to help point towards change.
We’re biased to psychometrics due to their scientific accuracy, but change needs to occur from these results. In a business environment, these findings needs to be implemented for positive change - it’s about action from information.
WB: What are the biggest risks or challenges of being a leader and how do you cope with these?
PE: Believing your own hype - hubris - can be a huge risk. Those who have struggled to succeed can get distracted by self-importance but pride really does come before a fall, so maintaining humility is vital.
Pace of change has also become dangerous. Today’s leaders must think, act and argue more quickly and deal with competition at speed. Taking time to reflect and think clearly has become somewhat of a luxury but it’s a crucial part of leadership.
Dealing with multi-cultural influences, either global or internally within the business is also essential. The most successful leaders embrace diversity and understand, with empathy, a variety of views.
WB: Can it be difficult leading people with very different personal values, both to each other and to you?
PE: The greatest conflicts happen where values clash, it’s less about personality and more about what you care about.
Operating in an environment with wildly conflicting values is unsustainable. The solution is to find common ground and values that overlap to reach a common purpose. Aligning around shared values creates the best result.
WB: As a leader, what do you value most about having strong partnerships?
PE: A small, trusted network can be very effective in driving an organisation forward, as good organisations and leaders recognise the skills gaps that trusted partners can fill.
I understand that there are many things I can’t do well; other people will have those skills and working collaboratively produces a better result. Trusted partners can bring a new perspective you don’t have, challenging thinking, asking questions, suggesting new approaches and acting as a sounding board.
The true currency of business is relationships, not money. However, great relationships will lead to success, however that’s measured.
WB: What are your main goals/aspirations?
PE: My main business goal is to positively influence the widest range of organisations so that their employees actively enjoy their work. The way to achieve this is to work with leaders to create flourishing workplaces, working with them to create highly meaningful and engaging workplaces.
I aspire to be a trusted advisor to the highest level of any organisation, something that is core to my personal values.
In life, I am constantly working to improve my character. I want people to think of me as a reliable, helpful, trustworthy and kind person. I have a long way to go but it’s a wider ambition.
We also work with the British Army and they have a practise of challenging themselves in peacetime to set them up for conflict. I think that’s a great ideology; practise in the small to prepare for the big issues.
WB: What does success look like to you?
PE: We’re currently working on the launch of Nexus - a leadership academy; a really ambitious project that has enormous potential for success. We’re focussed on attracting leaders to the island to receive the best of our work and grow and develop as leaders. We’re excited to get to this point and are looking forward to where the academy can takes us as a business.
I’d like to have a broader influence on the clients we’re working with as well as connecting with larger organisations so we can have a greater impact on more people. Financial results are a clear indicator of success but, I think personal growth and developing as a human are also important markers of success.
WB: What has been your biggest success so far?
PE: Arguably, launching the Leaders brand is a real success story for me. I took a huge risk; leaving an executive role in finance to realise and develop my vision and thankfully it’s working out so far.
The positive reaction to our business launch at last year’s conference showed that the Leaders brand was understood and trusted from the start, which really filled me with confidence and showed a successful transition.
Personally, leading in my local church has been challenging yet rewarding. We had some genuine struggles to overcome when I joined and I’m grateful to have had the opportutniy to help keep the church on the right tracks during quite a turbulent period.
WB: In hindsight, is there anything you might have tackled differently from a leadership perspective?
PE: Yes, there are loads of examples, some more significant than others. In my early career, I would have spent more time on personal and character development rather than just professional advancement. There were moments when, perhaps, I should have been slower to act before making a decision and I’ve tried to learn from that.
I should have asked for more feedback too, from a wider variety of people, rather than being so independent and self-sufficient. I now appreciate the importance of good, candid feedback and accepting help or advice. Having previously been too defensive, I’ve found people who can specifically give me the feedback I need to hear to drive my business forward. It’s about building a network of people you trust and being open to other people’s values.
WB: It is often said that a good work-life balance is important. Do you think that this is difficult to achieve as a leader? How do you achieve this balance?
PE: I agree that balance is important and can often elude us. The drivers that work provides, for example a career path, purpose and money, can become disproportionately large and we can lose our spirituality, forsaking family, the arts and community.
It’s hard for everyone to achieve equilibrium, not just leaders, but those in a leadership role can focus too strongly on moving an organisation forward at the cost of other factors. However, it needn’t be such a challenge, finding balance is about making the right choices.
If being healthy means taking a run at lunchtime or leaving work early twice a week to pick the children up from school, these are choices we can make to help us keep some perspective.
WB: What motivates you?
PE: Goals are important to me, as I understand that objectives help to direct energy towards meaningful and purposeful effort. I’m really motivated by a sense of purpose in life. I believe that, as humans, there’s something we’re all here to do so helping people to experience improvement in their work lives is an intrinsic motivator for me.
I’m motivated to help people work in a flourishing way. Setting targets, goals and objectives helps to direct energy towards meaningful and purposeful effort. Maintaining focus and monitoring improvement can produce formidable results.
WB: Is there an individual who has inspired you? If so, how have they inspired you? Do you think you share common values with this individual?
PE: Yes. Dr Chuck Coker is a personal friend and business partner based in the US. He’s inspirational to me because, not only is he a fascinating man, but we have shared values and both use good data and science in our work to help people flourish.
As a character, he’s inspiring because of his extremely rich and varied life experience, of which he’s very transparent. I aspire to be like him as, not only as he is a leader in this field of work, but his humility, graciousness and work ethic is truly admirable.
WB: Do you have a motto that inspires you?
PE: I’m inspired by different things at various points in the day, week, month and year so I don’t live by one particular motto. For example, there are mottos I need to keep me going and motivate me but they can come from different places; websites, Twitter, family, friends, trusted partners…I need different inspiration for the various moments in my life. I also draw on Biblical wisdom to support me.
For me, inspiration can come from everyday interactions that help me both in my personal and professional life.