A great leader will help people kick start their careers, giving them direction for their work and life – and businesses with great leadership always perform better, have more engaged staff and make more money, according to Cheltenham-based Brave Human Capital Group.
SoGlos spoke to Brave’s managing director James Fleming about the skills that shape great leaders in Gloucestershire and beyond – and the difference great leadership makes to business.
About the expert – James Fleming, managing director of Brave Human Capital Group
James Fleming is the founder and managing director of Cheltenham-headquartered Brave Human Capital Group – a human resources company serving the county and beyond.
Brave builds bespoke HR and resourcing solutions for businesses, focusing on a company’s strengths, people and vision. It believes passionately that people are at the heart of a business and makes it a priority to help them perform to their full potential to make the business a success.
What are the key qualities of a great leader?
For me, there are not a set of definitive qualities. It depends on the individual and their own skills and working styles.
But overall, a good leader is someone who is true to themselves and acts consistently, in line with their beliefs and own individual strengths, setting the direction clearly and effectively for others. The word authenticity is over-used at the moment but it’s still a good one.
In my view, a forward-thinking leader in 2022 is able to coach, listen to and collaborate with their teams, using the skills of those around them to develop great solutions.
They’ll also need to be incredibly adaptable and manage individuals as individuals, adjusting their approach to get the best from people with different working preferences.
Can you share some great examples of top leadership – and highlight why they’re so good?
I’m fortunate enough to work with many great leaders. They continue to influence my career and decision making every day.
It’s worth giving a few local business leaders a shout out – there’s Billy Smith at Action Coach Cheltenham, who has boundless energy, optimism and inspires change.
There’s Martyn Jones at VoCoVo who is based in Cheltenham too, who invests continually in his own development and that of his team.
Finally, there’s Tina Seymour, the chief executive at Hope for Tomorrow who sets a compelling vision for the future and has the persistency to make progress.
Globally, leaders I look up to are Barrack Obama (of course), for the way he brought communities together and inspired hope – and then there’s my son’s favourite, Pep Guardiola, for his ability to change and evolve his football philosophy to make sure he is always ahead of the competition.
Who do you think are some of best leaders in Gloucestershire and why?
As well as those I mentioned above, I would have to say Julie Kent, from the Pied Piper Appeal, for the way she has made a massive difference to the local community.
The other would be my late father-in-law, Len Warwick, who ran a successful financial advice business, Warwick Butchart Associates. He was a pioneer, gave people time and always did the right thing by those around him. He was, and continues to be, a great role model for me.
What is needed to develop great leadership?
Taking the time to listen to the views around you, understand people and what’s important to them and taking advice from people who’ve been there, done it and got the T-shirt.
What kind of difference can great leadership make?
Great leadership is THE difference for businesses and in life generally.
A great leader will help people kick start their careers, giving them a direction for their work and life. We have done a lot of work with businesses and those with great leadership always perform better, have more engaged staff and make more money.
Can poor leadership be easily remedied? Or does the leadership team need to be replaced?
Well, by working with us, people can make sure they have the right leaders, doing the right things in place from the start.
Can a leader be developed who is not performing? Yes, of course – you must believe that everyone can change and improve, but they need to be willing to listen, be coached and change. If they cannot do this, then they need to be changed. We’ve regretfully had to do a lot of this, too.
Are there any leadership nightmares you’ve come across and were they able to be turned around?
A common area for improvement is placing people in the right roles that fit with their skillsets. Too many organisations move people around into different roles or give people promotions without thinking about what they actually need, or the skills and values of the people they’re moving or promoting.
These situations can be difficult to unpick and will cause disengagement and a reduction to performance. We’ve helped clients gain clarity on what roles are required and the skills needed to make sure they have the right people, doing the right things that will really make a difference.
Who inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I believe in investing in yourself and learning, so I’d say my coach, Billy Smith. Also, my family – I know I must deliver for them. I took a chance by leaving a senior corporate job nearly four years ago, so I need to repay their faith.