Jul 07 2020| Leadership

What’s got you here won’t take you there

Yesterday's ways of working won't serve you well in the future

by Phil Eyre Founder of Leaders

This month, I explain how our approach to leadership should change with the times. 

When I started work in the finance industry there were still a handful of people in the City wearing bowler hats. Many City workers carried umbrellas - regardless of the weather. I recall needing to find a phonebox to call into the office and I remember the first personal computer arriving, it was a Macintosh. I hope that you’ll agree that, at 46, I’m not that old, yet what I’ve described here will feel veritably anachronistic to most readers.

My point here is not to take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but to get us to remember that times change. But has our approach to decision-making and leadership changed? 

In my observations across the Channel Islands, it seems that boardrooms have changed relatively little, despite radical shifts in business and society. For companies to survive, rebuild and reshape out of the COVID crisis, decision-making bodies (boards) need a radical rethink.

For too many, a standard agenda framework has remained practically unchanged for years, save for items required by new regulation. The key roles have remained substantially the same and often the same small group of people, or people with the same skills, are considered for new board positions. 

There has, of course, been some progress - notably in gender diversity (with a long way still to go) and there are, of course, exceptions. I’m not against keeping people with years of experience on boards. Not at all. 

What I’m advocating for is an expanded view on boardroom composition, one that accepts prevailing realities and one that looks ahead to future conditions and builds the most effective team accordingly. 


Some suggestions:

  • Put people at the centre of your strategy. Companies that treat their people well will succeed. People and culture should be central to boardroom thinking, strategy and agenda, not relegated to a ‘five-minute update from HR’.
  • The appointment to the board should predominantly be based on the talent that will take you forward, not as a reward for past long service. Boards and executive teams are often viewed as the pinnacle of career progress, requiring continual promotion through the ranks over many years, yet there are people within businesses who possess phenomenal decision-making and visionary talent.
  • Co-opt people from your business to the board for a necessary period. We generally view career progress as in one direction, but this need not be the case. 
  • Expand the diversity, not the longevity, of experience. A brilliant engineer can add value to a finance company board. Diversity is broader than gender, age and ethnicity (which are important); it includes experience and varied perspectives.
  • Review your ‘must-have’ roles. Do these roles still serve you well? How well are your customers and suppliers represented? What perspectives are you missing? Who will mix it up?


Making changes such as these require future-focused thinking and a high-trust culture - each a hallmark of excellent leadership.

If we continue to look only in the same places for our decision-makers, at best we will miss some great opportunities, at worst we’ll become as relevant as a bowler hat.

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 significant expertise in sophisticated 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, 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. Since launching Leaders in 2017, Phil has worked with many senior executives and boards primarily in the Channel Islands and City of London. He regularly writes for a variety of business publications and is often invited to speak at events for institutions such as the IoD and the British Army. Phil works closely with clients on focussed projects and long-term retainers to raise leadership standards. He is a popular and inspiring educator and coach who, with the insights gained from psychometrics, is able to accurately detect the strengths and weaknesses in leadership teams and boards. Phil has served on the boards of various charities, ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and is accredited in various motivation and behavioural techniques.

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